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What to Expect for Your First Chinese Medicine Acupuncture Treatment

During your first acupuncture treatment, the acupuncturist will be looking to gather as much information about your health and lifestyle as possible to help determine where your overall imbalances lie.  They will start by asking about your chief complaint, or what brought you into the clinic that day. They will be looking for details of duration, other forms of treatment you’ve had, what makes it worse and if you have found anything that has helped you feel better. 

Next they will move into questions relating to your overall health and lifestyle. The questions will look at your digestion and thirst, your sleep quality, your energy and stress levels, any concerns you have with your head or sense organs, as well as any pain you have throughout your body. This will allow the acupuncturist to get an overall picture of your body and establish any imbalances. This is also the time that past health and family health history is collected.

The acupuncturist will then want to look at your tongue and feel your pulse. They will be looking at the colour of both the tongue body and coating, the size and shape, as well as the presence of scalloping or prickles on the tongue. This gives the acupuncturist a visual representation of your health. With regards to pulse reading, each finger position coincides with a different organ system in the body. The speed, rate, depth and thickness are all considered during a pulse reading.  The tongue and pulse help the acupuncturist finalize their diagnosis and will likely match the symptoms you have shared during the inquiry part of the appointment.

Next it is time for treatment to begin. The acupuncturist will let you know whether they would like you to lie face up or face down and will prepare the table accordingly. They will then ask you to roll up or remove your clothing to allow for access to the areas of the body that will be needled. After providing you with the appropriate blankets to cover yourself and asking if you have any questions, the acupuncturist will then leave the room to allow you a chance to get ready. This also allows them an opportunity to prepare their treatment plan.

CUPPING & GUA SHA

If the patient is experiencing pain or tension, it is likely that the acupuncturist will begin their treatment with some cupping or Gua Sha. Cupping can be done with glass, silicone or plastic cups and they can be stationary or moved along the site of pain. Gua Sha is a technique in which a stone tool is repeatedly pressed along a lubricated area of skin until the skin turns red. Both cupping and Gua Sha increase blood flow and therefore release muscle tension and break up scar tissue.

ACUPUNCTURE

Acupuncture needles are made of stainless steel and are single use, sterile and disposed of directly after treatment. They are inserted into specific acupoints that are located all over the body.  The acupuncturist will typically choose between 10 and 20 acupoints, depending on the condition being treated. Typically, more needles are used for a pain related condition because local points are used at the site of the pain, combined with distal points that treat the overall diagnosis. The number of needles used in a treatment does not impact the results of a treatment. Every treatment given is individualized for the patient.

ELECTRO ACUPUNCTURE

Electro acupuncture has shown very beneficial results in treating pain and paralysis symptoms. Once the needles have been inserted into specific point in the area of pain or paralysis, they are attached to a device by using two clips, one positive and one negative. The acupuncturist is then able to adjust the frequency and intensity of the continuous impulse running between the two needles, depending on the condition being treated.

Once all the needles have been inserted and the acupuncturist has ensured that you are comfortable and warm enough, they will play some soft music and leave you to rest. They will come and check on you after five minutes to make sure you are still comfortable and then will leave you to rest for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

After 10 to 15 minutes, the acupuncturist will come and remove your needles and your treatment is complete. Before you leave your acupuncturist may discuss possible dietary or lifestyle recommendations they have for you. Following these recommendations allows you to play a role in helping your body fix the imbalances that were treated in your acupuncture treatment.

A typical course of treatment is four to eight visits within three to four weeks. Each case is different and everyone’s bodies heal at a different rate, depending on your overall health and how long you have been dealing with your ailment. Your acupuncturist will check in with you at each appointment to help measure changes and progress and will adjust the treatments to maximize your healing each time they see you.

SUGGESTIONS FOR BEFORE, DURING & AFTER TREATMENT

The first thing I would recommend you do before you book your first acupuncture treatment is reach out to the acupuncturist if you have any questions or concerns. Acupuncture is very safe but the theory of Chinese medicine is very different from any western treatment options and the idea of needles can be scary to some people. Your acupuncturist should be able to answer any questions you have and explain how their treatment could benefit your specific ailment. They will also be able to put your mind at ease with regard to possible fears of needles. Letting your acupuncturist know in advance that you have a fear of needles will allow them to ensure they have the thinnest needles possible available for your treatment.

When they day of your first appointment arrives, it is recommend that you eat and drink plenty of water before your appointment. It is also ideal if you do not brush your tongue and avoid coffee or any other beverages that can change the colour of your tongue. Wearing or bringing loose fitting clothing that can be rolled up to your knees and elbows is also a great idea. You will be provide with a blanket or towel to cover yourself with but your acupuncturist will want you to be as comfortable as possible during treatment.  Finally, if at any point you are uncomfortable with your position on the table or with any of the needles, please let your acupuncturist know.  At the end of the day, the needles are helping your body heal itself so you want to be as relaxed as possible while lying on the table.

After your treatment, your acupuncturist will advise that you take it easy and drink plenty of water. If you have had cupping or Gua Sha done, it is important that you keep that area of skin covered when outside and avoid showering right away.  Although adverse reactions to acupuncture are rare, if you have any concerns following your treatment, don't hesitate to reach out to your acupuncturist.

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