Food & Fitness

How to Prepare for Your First Acupuncture Session

A couple months ago, I wrote about my experiences with acupuncture. I’m still seeing my massage therapist / acupuncturist every 10 days or so, and it is really making a world of difference.

Since I’ve been getting acupuncture, I’ve had a lot of questions from people about what it’s like. If you are thinking about going for acupuncture, here are some things to know which will help to prepare you for your first session:

  • The needles don’t usually hurt.

Really! Most of them slide in and out without you feeling anything. Other times you can feel them but it’s not unpleasant. Acupuncture needles only “hurt” (generally a pinching sort of feeling) for specific points that are sensitive, which might only be one or two out of the couple dozen needles that your acupuncturist might put in you.

acupuncture model

Don’t worry – you probably won’t get too many (if any!) needles in your face. But even they don’t hurt!

  • It’s okay to ask a lot of questions.

Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are very different! It might be confusing to understand how acupuncture works if you don’t have any background in TCM. That’s okay! Your acupuncturist should be able to answer most of your questions in a way that you can understand.

It’s also a good idea to ask plenty of questions outside of the “how does acupuncture work” area. If you’re feeling a little nervous, ask your acupuncturist at the beginning of the appointment to walk you through what the session will look like. Inquire about how long the needles stay in for, how many needles they usually put in, what kind of symptoms you might experience after your session, etc. The more you can educate yourself, the more comfortable you will feel.

  • The more information you can provide your acupuncturist, the better.

Just like your acupuncturist should provide you with plenty of information about acupuncture, you should provide your acupuncturist with plenty of information about your health history and complaints. Even if you don’t think that things are connected, they probably are. For example, having cold feet, anxiety, an eating disorder, and abdominal pain can all be connected! Tell your acupuncturist about every little detail you can think of and they will be able to give you much more precise treatment.

  • Acupuncture sessions might vary in length, but expect to be at the acupuncture office for at least a good hour.

I really recommend that you try not to make any plans within about three hours from the beginning of your session. If you’re getting massage therapy with your acupuncture, like me, you could be at the office for close to two hours in total (taking into account arriving a few minutes early to your appointment and your acupuncturist running a little late).

Sometimes your acupuncturist might put some needles in for just a few minutes. Other times, the needles might be left in for up to 40 minutes. Take all of that into account! The last thing you want is to be lying there on the table with needles in you, staring at the clock and getting stressed out because you’re cutting things close with other plans that you had made.

  • You might have different emotional and physical reactions from your sessions, depending on your health issues and the acupuncture points used.

This is another reason why it’s a good idea not to make plans too close after your acupuncture session finishes. Most of the time, I feel amazing and energized after acupuncture sessions. But there have been a couple times when they have made me very tired, and one time when I felt pretty awful after the treatment. This is your body reacting to the treatment. It’s nothing to be alarmed about, but it’s good to be aware of so you can prepare accordingly. If you provide your acupuncturist with enough information about your healthy history and your current issues, they should be able to give you the heads up if they think the treatment will make you feel sleepy (or any other reaction) afterwards.

Got questions about acupuncture? Have your own experiences or tips to share? Comment below!


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