Most office visits will last approximately one hour. Of this time, about two-thirds will be spent on the actual treatment, and the other third talking to the acupuncturist about your condition. Usually, in addition to asking a series of questions about your current and past health, an acupuncturist will want to briefly examine your tongue (as tongue examination is one of TCM’s important diagnostic tools) and feel your pulse.
Once ready for the treatment, you will be asked to lie down on a comfortable (and possibly heated) massage table. Most acupuncture is done without the removal of any clothing other than shoes and socks, but if anything else needs to be removed, your privacy will always be respected and you will be given blankets or a gown to keep you covered as much as necessary. Once the needles are inserted, you will simply lie and relax for about 30 to 40 minutes. Patients often fall asleep during their treatment, as the needles tend to produce a profound sense of relaxation for most people.
Your first visit will be longer than subsequent visits (about an hour and a half), because of the need to gather information and a detailed health history. The more an acupuncturist knows about your health, the better equipped he or she will be to help you. Often, information that you might think is not relevant to the condition that is causing you discomfort turns out to be very useful information for the acupuncturist to have. Remember that Chinese Medicine often sees connections between things that we in the west don’t necessarily think of as related, so if you aren’t sure whether to mention something to the acupuncturist or not, you probably should.
A course of treatment is highly variable: anywhere from 1 to 20 treatments or more may be recommended, depending on your condition. There are numerous factors that will determine the number of treatments you’ll need, but a few general rules of thumb can be expected:
- The longer you have had a condition, the more treatments you are likely to need to completely resolve it.
- Younger patients have a tendency to respond to treatment more quickly than older patients.
- Conditions that require only one visit are rare. Although this does happen, don’t expect it. Chinese Medicine does not typically offer the quick fixes that we in the West have come to expect from drug-based medical practices. You may need to have a bit of patience, but the lasting benefits are well worth it in the end.
- There are plenty of exceptions to every rule of thumb! Every individual is just that – individual, and unique.