What Happens In An Acupuncture Session?
The majority of my patients come to see me with not much idea what acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can do for them. Many of them tell me that they have tried various doctors, taken medications, had surgeries and feel like they are desperate for some help with their condition. I hear again and again that “You are my last resort!”
Why is this? I feel that some of this is fear.
What happens in an acupuncture session?
An initial acupuncture visit will involve a lengthy medical intake history-taking. Many acupuncturists book two hour appointments for your initial visit. The first hour is spent discussing your condition and any other medical issues that you have had in your lifetime and the second hour is used to treat the condition. The goal is to obtain a thorough understanding of your condition, what diagnosis you have received, the various treatments that you have tried and what success you have had with them in addition to what behaviors affect the condition either positively or negatively. It is also important to really listen to the patient. Oftentimes patients have valid observations of their condition that they do not have time to share with traditional doctors given such short visits.
An acupuncturist will also observe the patient’s tongue and pulse. Tongue diagnosis can reveal quite a bit about a patient's constitution. Signs such as color, shape, moisture level and tongue coat are very significant when determining a TCM diagnosis. The tongue acts as a window into the interior of the body to allow a picture into the health of the organ systems or meridians. (Meridians are the pathways that the qi, or life energy, travels within the body. This qi cannot be seen but can be evaluated by monitoring tongue, pulses and symptoms.) A patient’s pulse is taken with three fingers and it’s taken on both wrists as all of the twelve major meridian’s can be evaluated in this way. An acupuncturist looks at pulse rate, rhythm, amplitude and intensity. A tongue and pulse reading, along with the signs and symptoms of one or more conditions will help determine a diagnosis and a treatment plan for the patient.
An acupuncture treatment usually involves insertion of acupuncture needles that are the approximate thickness of a cat’s whisker. Unlike hypodermic needles, these needles are solid (not hollow, therefore are slimmer) and very flexible. When you touch an acupuncture needle it will bend with the pressure! These are very fine instruments whose purpose is to stimulate the qi in the meridians to help resolve energetic imbalances leading to decreases in pain, inflammation and stress.
Receiving acupuncture is very relaxing. The needle insertion itself is at most a quick prick but usually is entirely painless. You then get to rest in a darkened room with soothing music on a deep mattress often leading to a 10-20 minute nap.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete medical modality that is especially good at treating conditions that just do not respond to traditional medicine.