For the uninitiated, the term “acupuncture” may bring to mind visions of needles and pain. But those who have tried it know there is a lot more to the treatment than pokes and pricks — and usually little to no pain.
Acupuncture can benefit patients with various health conditions. According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture can effectively treat over 30 diseases including various pain disorders, nausea and vomiting, morning sickness, allergic rhinitis and more.
While acupuncture has become mainstream as a safe and effective alternative or complementary therapy to Western medicine, it can be intimidating for those trying it for the first time.
Victoria Risovanny, a licensed acupuncturist at the Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital, shares five things to expect from your first acupuncture visit, to make your experience worry-free and pleasant.
- The first visit is a longer one. Your first acupuncture session may last longer then follow-up sessions because the acupuncturist needs to know details of your medical history. When making an appointment, ask if you can do initial paperwork ahead of time because often it includes a lengthy health questionnaire. Also, bring a list of medications and dietary supplements you are currently taking.
- It will include a pulse and tongue observation. The acupuncturist may ask you to show your tongue and may feel your pulse on both wrists to determine the current state of your internal organs’ health. These traditional Chinese medicine diagnostic tools have been used for thousands of years. Individual acupuncture treatment prescription is based on the results of pulse and tongue observations, in combination with patient symptoms and what is learned from your health history. Tip: Don’t brush your tongue on the day of your acupuncture treatment so the practitioner can see its true presentation.
- Your clothes stay on. Unless asked, you don’t need to remove your clothes to receive acupuncture. Wear loose clothes such as workout clothes so the acupuncturist can easily roll up sleeves and the bottom of pants to reach ankles, knees, wrists and elbows — many acupuncture points are located in this area.
- You may be asked unexpected questions. Acupuncturists often ask questions about sleep (quality of sleep; if you wake up at night and at what time), your bowel movements and urination (frequency, color, if it is painful, etc.). This type of information helps to assess the current state of your health.
- Acupuncture is more than just needles. Your acupuncture treatment may include other treatment methods such as cupping, gua sha (scraping), essential oils, massage and ear acupressure. Communicate with your therapist about your preferences, especially if you have never tried these therapies before.
“It’s important to ask us questions,” says Risovanny. “Ask if there is anything you can do at home to support your healing process.”
She adds, “Your acupuncturist may suggest easy dietary changes, stress-relieving techniques or exercise to add to your daily routine to help you achieve your health goals sooner.”