What to Know and Expect

About Your Visit

 

How long does each session last?


The first visit will be approximately 90 minutes. Return visits are typically 45 minutes, but can sometimes last up to one hour, depending on the treatment required. 

 

How to prepare for a treatment session:

  • Before making an appointment, download the following forms.
Consent Forms
Patient History (fillable pdf)
Patient History - Part 2 - optional
HIPAA Privacy Notice (for your reference only - do not print this document)
          Complete the Patient History form(s) on your computer and print it out to bring it with you to your first visit. 
This
helps save time so we can spend more time on your examination and treatment during your visit. If  you don't have a printer, please come ten minutes early to fill out the forms.  
The Privacy Notice is for your reference only -- you do not need to print it.

     You should also remember to:
  • Bring any relevant paperwork (lab results or medical reports) you have from your primary care physician.
  • Dress in loose, comfortable clothing that can be rolled up just above elbows and knees. Women should avoid wearing one-piece dresses and stockings.
  • Do not brush your tongue on the day of treatment. Your tongue coating can provide us with some important information about the state of your health.
  • Do not come for treatment when excessively hungry or excessively full. Make sure you eat a moderate breakfast before your morning visit (and a decent lunch if scheduled for an afternoon visit). Getting treated on an empty stomach can cause lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting, if you're already prone to fainting.
  • Do not come when physically exhausted, intoxicated (by alcohol or any recreational drug), or just after sex. Your energy is strongly influenced by these circumstances and activities, and thus your examination and treatment would be impacted as well.
  • Do not drink coffee immediately before your visit, for the same reason as above.


What should I do immediately after a treatment session?


For at least three hours immediately after acupuncture:

     1) Do not overexert yourself mentally or physically. It’s best to take it easy for a few hours to allow the effects of acupuncture to set in. In rare cases, one might feel drowzy, dizzy, or lightheaded (this depends on your health constitution). If you feel drowsy, dizzy or lightheaded, do not drive. Wait a while until you no longer have these sensations before driving.

     2) Do not drink or eat anything cold.

     3) Do not go swimming, take showers or baths, or use the sauna or steam room.

 

 

What to Expect

 


What is the treatment like?


During your first visit, you will be given a detailed consultation and examination before treatment. Your treatment may consist of any of the following as your practitioner sees appropriate for your health condition: acupuncture,  tui na (Chinese medical massage or acupressure), instructions for exercise and moxibustion, among other modalities. All procedures will be explained to you as needed.

 

Acupuncture is the insertion of ultra-thin needles in specific areas of the body (called acupoints) to activate your body's innate healing ability. An acupuncture needle is not much thicker than a strand of hair. Pain upon needle insertion, if any, lasts only a split second and is minimal and does not harm the body. Most of the time, you will barely feel the needle going into your body at all. The minimal pain caused by an acupuncture needle is nothing like receiving an injection or getting your blood drawn. The pain gives way to other sensations associated with energy activation and transmission, such as tingling, warmth, heaviness, numbness, or a mild electrical sensation, on or around the spot being treated or moving up or down the channel.

 

Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins to help your body relax. Many patients feel so relaxed during acupuncture that they fall asleep on the treatment table. Acupuncture, when performed by a competently trained, licensed professional is extremely safe, so the best thing to do while getting an acupuncture treatment is to just relax and listen closely to your acupuncturist’s instructions. Do not change your position or move suddenly. If you are uncomfortable, tell your practitioner.

 

Tui na is Chinese medical massage, which includes acupressure. The techniques are focused on reestablishing proper flow of qi (energy) through the channels (energetic pathways). The pressure used can be deep or mild, depending on the nature of your illness. Sessions of tui na are often brief and disease-specific.

 

Cupping is the use of suction cups on the body along specific channel pathways or zones to release stagnant qi, blood or other fluids within the flesh. By doing so, the flow of qi and blood within the channels are restored and pain (or associated symptom) is relieved.


Gua sha is the scraping of the skin along specific channel pathways or zones with the blunt edge of a flat object for the same purpose.

 

Facial rejuvenation sessions are a combination of acupuncture and acupressure/massage


Warning: Because both cupping and gua sha release stagnant blood and bring fresh blood to an area of the body to improve circulation, they can leave bruise-like marks on the body that can stay for up to a week. This is nothing to be alarmed about; it just means that the stagnation was successfully released. If the marks bother you, you should plan your social events accordingly. Click on these links to see examples of what gua sha and cupping marks look like. Parents should also be aware that the marks from gua sha have been confused with marks of child abuse (see this film).

 

Use of Disposable Needles: To prevent the possibility of infection from acupuncture, all needles are pre-sterilized, one-time-use needles made of surgical stainless steel.  After each treatment they are disposed of as medical waste; needles are never reused.  Additionally, your acupuncturist has had training in Clean Needle Technique and Universal Precautions.



How soon should I expect results?

 

In general, for most mild to moderate conditions, you should start seeing some improvement before your 5th session. Serious, complex, and some chronic health problems may take an entire course (10 sessions) or more before there is noticeable improvement, especially if you are constantly being exposed to the things that are contributing to the health complaint. For instance, if you are suffering with a repetitive strain injury and you are unable to avoid the activities that cause this strain while receiving acupuncture, it may take up to 10 sessions before acupuncture wins the uphill battle. If the constant strain is too great and frequent, acupuncture might not improve the condition even after 10 sessions.

 

In many cases, you must be willing to change the way you eat or correct other unhealthy habits for Chinese medical care to have a lasting effect and to improve your overall health condition.


Everyone responds to treatment differently because there are unique factors that can sometimes impact the effect of acupuncture. Therefore, no acupuncturist in the world can guarantee how quickly your condiiton will improve or the final outcome of treatment. Some individuals experience total or partial relief of their pain or symptoms after the first few treatments. Others notice steady, gradual improvement. In some cases, no relief is felt at all until several days after a session, or after several sessions or an entire course of acupuncture.


Sometimes, after feeling better for a few days or a week, your condition will relapse. This is because your body needs time to adjust to the cumulative effect of acupuncture, but once the root of the problem is successfully addressed, the condition will no longer relapse. Or, in the case of severe health problems, the intensity of symptoms will decrease with each course of acupuncture while the time interval between relapses will gradually increase, until you only need tune-up sessions once every few months or so to maintain the effects. If your condition routinely gets better with several sessions of acupuncture only to relapse again and again, this may be caused by a physical/emotional/dietary aggravating factor in your life that needs to be addressed.


Occasionally, some people notice that their pain or symptom actually seems to be worse before it gets better. This could be due to a natural progression of the disease before the effects of treatment kicks in, or what's known as a "healing crisis" (a good sign). Let us know how you responded to the previous treatment at the time of your return visits, so that your treatment plan can be adjusted accordingly.

 

Depending on your condition and your goal for treatment, we may require a physician referral in order for you to continue treatment in our clinic (as is the case with Worker's Compensation). In addition, clients are responsible for seeking the advice and treatment of a physician should their symptoms change for the worse, or should any new condition arise.

 

See also: When Acupuncture Does Not Work

 

How many sessions of treatment will I need?

 

A typical course of acupuncture treatment is 10 sessions, and the number of courses required for complete recovery depends on the nature, severity, and duration of the health condition for which you seek treatment. Simple, acute problems may take just 3 to 5 sessions for full recovery, while chronic or more complex problems may take several courses over many months, followed by once-monthly sessions for maintenance.

 

As there is no guarantee of results with any type of medicine (whether conventional Western medicine or traditional Chinese medicine), patients need to be aware of the severity of their own condition and adjust their expectations accordingly. Although acupuncture and other Chinese medical healing modalities have had a good track record for successfully treating many conditions, each case is unique because each individual suffering from any dis-ease can vary greatly in pathodynamics from the next person with the same illness, meaning that there are many different factors to dis-ease, ranging from emotional to physical to environmental and even genetics. Therefore, we cannot guarantee a "quick fix" or a "miracle cure" for any condition, though these amazing phenomena have been known to happen with the help of Chinese medicine.


For more information on what Chinese medicine has been shown to successfully treat, see our Conditions Treated and FAQs pages.