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What Happens During a Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture Treatment?

Traditional Chinese Medicine is unique in its information-gathering approach, diagnosis, and treatment — thousands of years of refinement make it superior to acupuncture done by chiropractors or other western medical professionals. This page briefly explains how it works from a layperson’s point of view.

  • The first comprehensive visit takes about 90-minutes (between 30 to 45 minutes for children).

The Therapeutic Setting.
Treatment rooms are a comfortable temperature, naturally lit, with relaxing music if you prefer. During the first visit, information about your current health, your medical and family history, life situation & lifestyle, likes and dislikes, as well as information from a brief physical examination and pulse & tongue diagnosis (traditional methods of diagnosis) are gathered. TCM uses four methods to gather enough data to make a good working diagnosis: (1) looking, (2) asking, (3) listening, and (4) palpating. After establishing the general nature of the complaint, questions will be asked regarding symptoms, health and life-style. An acupuncturist may also check pulses, the tongue, and conduct an appropriate physical exam. The information is then organized in order to create a complete, comprehensive and accurate diagnosis.

After the interview process, you may receive an individualized treatment of any of the following therapies, including acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, Chinese medical massage, and/or gua-sha. The therapies selected will be based on your chief complaint, as well as the diagnosis and treatment principle selected. If you would prefer NOT to have acupuncture, herbs, or any treatment modality, please tell your practitioner at that time. The actual treatment time ranges from 20 to 50 minutes. A treatment plan will then be developed that is discussed with each patient. Subsequent consultations, start with a few questions and a brief re-examination to determine your progress, followed by the treatment for the day.

Appointments are a time for your concerns to be heard and understood in the context of your particular life situation. TCM does not separate the mind and body, and looks at everything about a person, including lifestyle and stresses as well as symptoms. During the visit, your acupuncturist determines the underlying imbalances influencing your well-being. This holistic evaluation is very important because even though two people may suffer the same complaint, the causative factors are often different, reflecting the unique circumstances of each individual.

If the services provided by AEHA are not suitable for your condition, we will readily refer patients to an appropriate heath care provider. As a professional practice, please be assured that all personal details will be treated with utmost confidentiality.

During Your Treatment.
On your first visit, you will receive an individualized acupuncture treatment. Where the acupuncture needle has been inserted, you may experience a vague numbness, heaviness, tingling, or dull ache. Sometimes people experience a sensation of energy spreading and moving around the needle. This is called the “Qi” sensation. All these reactions are good and a sign that the treatment is working. Acupuncture needles can also be stimulated with pressure, heat, friction or electromagnetic impulses to further activate a person’s Qi. Afterward you may feel energized or a deep sense of relaxation and well-being.

All acupuncture needles used in this practice are approved by the FDA as medical tools; they are sterile, used once, and properly disposed of in a hazardous waste container.

How should I prepare?
Please arrive at least 15 minutes before your first appointment begins to complete medical history forms and other patient information prior to the evaluation.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing for easy access to acupuncture points.
Avoid brushing your tongue, and try not to drink or eat anything that can discolor your tongue (for example, coffee, chewing gum, sore throat lozenges, candy, breath mints, etc).
Come with any questions you may have.
Don’t eat large meals just before or after the visit.
Refrain from overexertion, drugs, or alcohol for up to 6 hours before or after the visit.
Avoid stressful situations after treatment. Make time to relax and be sure to get plenty of rest.

Do the needles hurt?
The sensation caused by an acupuncture needle varies. Some people feel a little pain as the needles are inserted, but most people feel no pain at all. The needles are tiny, just a little larger than a cat’s whisker or a human hair.

How deep do the needles go?
The depth of the insertion varies. For example, your acupuncturist will use a needling technique that is different in fleshier areas, such as your buttocks. Typically, needles are inserted at depths ranging between 1/8 inch to 1-1/2 inches deep.

Why do you want to feel my pulses?
There are 12 pulse positions on each wrist that your acupuncturist will palpate. Each position corresponds to a specific organ and meridian. The acupuncturist will be looking for one or more of the 27 specific pulses that reflect overall health. If there are any imbalances, they may appear in the pulse.

Why do you want to look at my tongue?
The tongue is a map of the body. It reflects the general health of the organs and meridians. Acupuncturists will want to look at the natural color, shape, cracks and coating on the tongue. Therefore, we ask that patients refrain from brushing the surface of their tongue on the day of treatment.

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