Generally, your first home visit is longer than your follow-up visits and entails quite a bit of questioning to include completing a medical history to better understand your main complaint and general health. The answers you provide to the questions will help to better understand your main complaint, and along with other basic diagnostic tools such as looking at your tongue and feeling your pulse, allow the acupuncturist to tailor the treatment specifically to you. After this, the acupuncture practitioner may carry out a physical examination.
Insertion of the needles
After taking an appropriate medical history, the acupuncture practitioner will begin the insertion of the acupuncture needles. These needles are inserted into specific places on the body, which practitioners call acupuncture points.
During the session, you will usually be asked to sit or lie down. You may also be asked to remove some clothes so the practitioner can access the relevant parts of your body. The needles used are fine and are usually a few centimeters long. They should be single-use, pre-sterilised needles that are disposed of immediately after use.
Acupuncture practitioners choose specific points to place the needles based on your condition. From 1 to 12 points will typically be used during a session, and sometimes more depending on the number of symptoms you have. The needles may be inserted just under the skin, or deeper so they reach muscle tissue. Once the needles are in place, they may be left in position for a length of time lasting from a few minutes up to around 30 minutes.
You may feel a tingling or a dull ache when the needles are inserted. You should not experience any significant pain. If you do, let your practitioner know straight away. In some cases, your practitioner may rotate the needles or stimulate them with a mild electric current (known as electro-acupuncture).
Prognosis and Treatment Plans
A definitive prognosis is always difficult to formulate, especially following an initial consultation. After the first 2-3 treatments, however, your acupuncturist should have a good understanding of your condition and be able to offer you a reasonable idea of how many treatments you will need.
While many people will feel some change in their condition immediately or within the first 2-3 treatments, others with more serious or chronic conditions will need many months of treatment before a significant change occurs. If you are not noticing any changes it does not mean that acupuncture is not helping you. Many times the changes are slow and somewhat subtle as the entire body begins to re-balance from the condition. During these initial stages an acupuncturist can usually gauge the relative effectiveness of the treatments through precise questioning and by monitoring subtle changes in your tongue a/or pulse.
Produced by the British Acupuncture Council, these publicly available resources explain how acupuncture may prove beneficial for a variety of conditions.