What to Expect
If you're new to acupuncture it may be useful to know what happens in a session of treatment. It is a straight forward and gentle process involving:
- a consultation
- pulse and tongue diagnosis
- needles in for about 20 minutes
- needles out and treatment over
A brief but in-depth consultation takes place before the diagnosis and treatment. The consultation informs the diagnosis and it helps the practitioner understand where the patient is symptomatically and how they are emotionally. Some patients are simply coming to receive acupuncture for acute pain or an injury whereas others may come for more deeply traumatic or chronic problems that are important to know about to assist the treatment.
Pulse and tongue Diagnosis
Tongue and particularly pulse diagnosis are carried out once the consultation is over and the patient is lying on the massage couch. The radial artery is palpated in different positions on both wrists in order to feel how well things are moving and to understand which aspects of the body/mind need treating. The pulse is an incredible tool based in the philosophy of Chinese Medicine that allows the practitioner to explore the quality and state of varying systems within the body including the respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular and kidney function.
Once the diagnosis has been made, very fine acupuncture needles are gently inserted into different parts of the body depending on which aspects of the patient needs treating. This is usually the arms, legs, back and front abdomen however sometimes needles are used on the neck and head in certain cases. On average, three to five needles are used per session and will be inserted for about twenty minutes. Due to how fine the needles are, the insertion is often painless and in my experience patients find it surprisingly gentle.
Acupuncture points exist along meridians or channels that run from head to toe/finger. Each channel has a different function in the body and meets a particular organ. For example the liver meridian meets the liver organ and is often used for headaches as headaches are commonly due to impaired movement of qi or energy in the liver channel. By strengthening the liver channel, this blockage can be lifted and headaches can be soothed.
Needles are then painlessly removed and the treatment is over. Depending on the complaint and level of symptoms, a few acupuncture sessions are usually required. After the first session, I normally see my patients one week later and then again in three or four weeks. If follow-up sessions are needed beyond this, they usually take place monthly.