Do I have to get disrobed?
Not usually. Most of the time, the main needle-insertion points are on the lower legs, ears or arms,so wearing loose-fitting clothing is fine. Similar to medical doctors, sometimes an acupuncturist will ask you to disrobe and put on a gown if he needs to work on your back, upper legs or torso.
How big are the needles and how deep are they inserted?
The stainless steel needles, normally about as thin as a human hair, are pre-sterilized and disposable. Unlike the hollow needles used for giving injections, acupuncture needles are solid. The acupuncturist will insert them to a depth of anywhere from a quarter of an inch to 3 inches, depending on the amount of subcutaneous fat that the needles need to penetrate.
What does it feel like?
Some people experience a slight sharp sensation depending on how sensitive they are and where the needles are inserted. Once the needle is in place, it’s normal to initially feel a tingling sensation, numbness, mild pressure or warmth. If these sensations became too strong or are uncomfortable, alert your acupuncturist and she will adjust the needles.
What exactly should I expect to happen during an acupuncture session?
The first treatment starts with a thorough medical history followed by a physical exam that notes skin tone,tongue condition and the qualities of your wrist pulse. According to TCM theory, these observations provide an indication of what’s going on in your body. After making a diagnosis, the practitioner will ask you to lie down and insert needles into key points. You’ll be allowed to rest with the needles in place, typically for up to 40 minutes.
How can it help me?
Acupuncture is mostly known in the West as a pain relief technique, but is also proven to be useful in numerous other indications. In 1979, the World Health Organization cited 104 conditions that acupuncture can treat — either alone or in conjunction with contemporary conventional medicine. In 1998 the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
issued a Consensus Statement on Acupuncture and cited conditions that acupuncture is effective for. Acupuncture also plays a huge role in preventive care, particularly as a form of stress management.
How does it work?
TCM teaches that the quality of energy or life force in the body — what acupuncturists call qi (pronounced “chee”) — determines our health. This qi circulates along energy pathways called meridians, many of which are linked to specific organs. Disease results when the qi becomes blocked and can’t circulate freely. In order to rebalance the energy flow and restore health, acupuncturists insert needles into key points on the body. (They work with approximately 360 acupoints.)
Is it OK for me to eat before or after a session? What about exercise?
It’s good to eat a little bit before a session because low blood sugar could increase sensitivity to the treatment and cause you to feel faint. Don’t, however, eat a heavy meal. For exercise, the reverse holds true. Prior to your session you can exercise as strenuously as you want. However, most acupuncturists advise only mild exercise within
several hours after treatment. Eating too much or vigorous exertion can disrupt the corrective flow of energy that follows an acupuncture session.
How many sessions do I need in order to start feeling the benefits?
That depends on the severity of the condition. For some people, the effect of acupuncture can be quite dramatic — they may feel the benefits after one session. For others, the response may be more gradual. In general, you should notice at least small changes in your condition within four to six treatments. If you are not seeing benefits, keep in mind that there is variability in the quality of acupuncturists. So before deciding whether acupuncture works for you, you could also consider trying a different practitioner.