What to Expect at Your First Acupuncture Visit

by Melissa Chichester

For over 2500 years, acupuncture has been a vital component of East Asian healthcare, designed to balance the body’s life energy, known as “qi.”

Instead of focusing on one particular ailment, acupuncture focuses on a person’s entire well-being. Today, acupuncture is one of the most well-known forms of therapy used to complement Western health practices; however, many people are still confused about what to expect during their first visit. Here’s what you need to know.

Expect embarrassing questions

An acupuncturist will want to know all about your health history and current lifestyle, and this includes getting to know all about your bodily functions! You will be asked personal questions about digestive health, eating habits, sleep habits, and maybe even your sexual health habits. If you are a woman, you will be asked about your menstrual cycle. Don’t feel embarrassed: acupuncturists want to do their homework and figure out where your health currently stands.

Prepare for a body check

After learning more about your lifestyle habits, the acupuncturist will check your pulse and tongue, which provides insight into your physical health.

Taking your pulse helps the acupuncturist learn about your physical energy.

Wear loose clothing

Good news! You don’t have to wear a scratchy gown that doesn’t quite close when you’re lying on the acupuncture table (which is made of very soft foam). Instead, dress in loose clothing with pants and sleeves that can roll up. The acupuncturist will be moving these to reach your limbs, but you will not have to remove your clothing.

Acupuncture needles are very thin

Don’t worry: acupuncture needles are made of very fine and flexible stainless steel, and each one is packaged individually and never reused.

In fact, they are so fine that they are only the width of two to three strands of hair. Insertion happens very quickly; the acupuncturist finds the position on your body, and simply taps it quickly to insert. It doesn’t hurt, but sometimes she might strike a nerve, causing a little jolt that is not painful, but simply a little uncomfortable. This usually happens when the needles are inserted into hands or feet.

Expect needles in unexpected places

The acupuncturist will insert the needles based on their findings during the initial consultation, after learning about your health, examining your tongue, and taking your pulse. Most needles will be inserted into your arms and legs, and the acupuncturist will use anywhere between 5-25 needles. Sometimes the needles might be inserted in other areas, like at the top of your head, in the middle of your forehead, in the skin between the thumb and index finger, or on the outside of your ears.

Get ready for surprising emotions

When the needles are in, your acupuncturist will likely put on some soothing music, dim the lights, and leave the room for 20-25 minutes. Finally, it’s time to relax! Or is it?

Sometimes acupuncture will bring out deep emotions.

If you are going through a stressful time, you might cry, and that’s perfectly normal. You may fall asleep and have crazy dreams, or you might laugh uncontrollably. This won’t happen to everyone, but it is something to be aware of during your session.

Overall, acupuncture is a highly relaxing and healing practice. Never be afraid to ask your acupuncturist questions. After your initial visit, the process will be smoother and you will find yourself in a comfortable routine as you get to know each other and are provided with more education on acupuncture and its benefits.