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Your First Acupuncture Treatment

Your first visit for acupuncture should not be fraught with dread, however, the thought of having several small needles inserted into your skin would naturally make most a little fearful.  Fear not, the needles are hair-thin and most patients barely feel the needles.  Those that do report more of a pinching sensation or a deep pressing feeling that is momentary.  All report that the benefit far outweighs the minute amount of possible discomfort.  


Upon entering the clinic on your initial visit you will be asked to fill out paperwork regarding the usual personal and contact information.  Also in your paperwork will be a questionnaire regarding your state of health, presenting complaints and questions related, and some seemingly unrelated, to your condition.  You will then be taken to a treatment room designed for your comfort and relaxation.  The light will be low and soft music will be playing.  It is best to go ahead and begin relaxing by removing your shoes and lying down on the table.  Let the assistant know if you need to use the restroom prior to your treatment.  The doctor will enter and introduce himself/herself and begin the assessment.  Please feel free to ask any and all questions - the doctors are there for you.    Following questioning the doctor will take your pulse and observe your tongue to formulate a diagnosis.  This is not the same pulse taken by your Western practitioner and the diagnosis will also be quite different.  The questioning, pulse, and tongue diagnosis assesses the flow of what is known as your Qi (chee).  Qi is a vital energy that flows through pathways intersecting your internal organs and your mind.  In this field of Medicine, we have observed that an imbalance in certain pathways corresponds to specific illnesses and that by placing small needles in specific points along those pathways we can influence that imbalance into balance.  If your Qi is flowing in a balanced manner you will be free of pain and illness.  At this time you may view the needles if you choose.  Our needles are individually wrapped in airtight packaging and are properly disposed of following treatment.  You will then be asked to lie either face-up or down on the table, depending on your condition, and the doctor will begin your treatment.  Pre-treatment may consist of palpation/pressure and range of motion testing if it is a muscular or joint condition.  Your treatment may consist of acupuncture (with or without stimulation), cupping, moxibustion, and herbal formulation.  There will also likely be dietary, lifestyle, and exercise recommendations given.  The typical acupuncture treatment uses approximately 10-12 needles and the typical cupping treatment uses 2-8 cups.  The doctor will then lower the lights and leave the room.  Most sessions require 15-25 minutes and during that time it is important that you relax - the more you relax the better your treatment results!  If you have a hard time relaxing try meditation or visual muscle relaxation techniques.  It is not uncommon to have a more difficult time relaxing during your first visit - on your second visit, it will be much easier.  Upon completion of your treatment, the assistant or doctor will enter the room and remove your needles and/or cups and instruct you to take your time and return to the front desk at your leisure.  If the doctor has suggested an herbal formula it will be waiting at the desk.  You will then schedule your next treatment, pay for your visit, and return home.  After your treatment, it is important that you refrain from excess mental and physical stress as much as possible.  It is suggested that when you go home you should relax with a good book or movie and get a good night's sleep.  We have created a balance in your Qi and would like for you to refrain from activity that might cause an imbalance following treatment.


Because we treat the whole person, body/mind/spirit, it is common to notice that smaller issues aside from your main complaint will be relieved after treatment.  Most patients report a feeling of calm and relaxation immediately following treatment, increased energy and a feeling of happiness the following day and, of course, relief from the pain or discomfort of the condition they were treated for.  The required number of treatments for each patient depends on many factors such as the age of the patient, their overall health and lifestyle habits, the severity of the condition, if the condition is chronic or acute, patient compliance, etc., but we expect some relief in 1 to 2 sessions.  Our common goal is three treatments, reassess and maintain.  Some patients require only two or three treatments while others require more.  We do not use pre-paid or treatment plans as we recognize all patients are individual and heal at different levels and thus it is impossible to tell exactly how many or how few treatments each will require.


Acupuncture is an ancient healing art that has been practiced for thousands of years. It has it's roots deeply planted in China and Taoism.  More people have been treated with acupuncture than any other form of treatment in the time of history. Acupuncture is a very safe and effective treatment that is used to treat illness, prevent disease, and improve health/well-being.  Very small, hair-thin needles are inserted into specific points in the body, where they are gently stimulated to elicit the body's natural healing response. Acupuncture is effective for controlling pain and can regulate the body's physiological functions to treat various internal dysfunction and disorders.

According to traditional acupuncture theory, there are twelve energy channels called "meridians" running vertically along the length of the human body, each one linking to a specific organ. Illness is caused by obstructed energy flow at certain points along the meridians. Acupuncture therapy stimulates meridian flow and harmonizes the body's energy to influence the health of both body and mind. 

Researchers have begun to examine in Western medical terms the mechanisms by which acupuncture brings about physiological change. Studies have shown that acupuncture influences both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Further evidence indicates that acupuncture stimulates the release of brain chemicals such as endorphins, which function to relieve pain. Research also suggests that acupuncture increases immune system functioning, improves the circulatory system, decreases muscle tightness, and increases joint flexibility. Clinical trials lend credence to these results: acupuncture has been shown to bring about significant improvement for a variety of diseases.

In countries such as Japan and China, which make up about a fifth of the world's population, acupuncture has been established as a primary form of health care for thousands of years, where the acupuncturist's role was comparable to that of the physician. Today in such countries, acupuncture treatment remains an integral component of the health care system, offered in conjunction with Western medicine. In North America, acupuncture has drawn growing public attention in recent years. The flood of headlines in the mass media describes this expanding interest and acceptance: The Washington Post, for example, reported that an estimated 15 million Americans, or about 6 percent of the population, have tried acupuncture for various ailments that include chronic pain, fatigue, nausea, arthritis, and digestive problems. 

In 1995, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reclassified acupuncture needles from the Class III (investigational device) category to the Class II (safe and effective but requiring restrictions) category. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), after mounting evidence from clinical trials, formally acknowledged acupuncture for its value in relieving pain, nausea after surgery or chemotherapy, and morning sickness; and effectiveness in treating conditions, such as headaches, asthma, stroke rehabilitation, and fibromyalgia.  

This expanding paradigm is changing the face of medicine as we know it. Acupuncture has already been accepted as one of the more common forms of pain management therapy in many pain clinics in US and Canadian hospitals. As a result, acupuncture has become accessible to more and more people as a viable alternative for pain relief, chronic conditions, and overall wellness. Doctors are recommending acupuncture for their patients for various conditions and most major health insurance plans (including Medicare) include coverage for acupuncture treatments.


In this ancient Chinese technique, bell-shaped vessels with a volume of approximately 1-4 ounces are inverted over the skin. The modern use of clear plastic cups with handheld suction enables the practitioner to see the skin and more closely monitor what is happening.

Typically, a series of vessels are used in the area to be treated. In the most common form, a series of 8 to 12 are placed along the back in two rows, the spine separating the rows, and left there for an average of 20 minutes. It leaves distinctive circular marks when done properly. The areas may feel as if they were sunburned for a short while. Ancient Chinese medicine prescribes this technique in cases where “stagnation” must be treated, commonly in the lungs, when it is used to treat coughs, and tightness or congestion in the chest.

It draws stagnant qi from deep within to the surface to be released, so easing pain. It is also sometimes used to treat musculoskeletal pain. Often, it is used in conjunction with other techniques, like acupuncture and acupressure. This method is applied to acupuncture points on the body where there is pain (stagnation). Some massage oil is often first applied to the skin to allow the cups to slide when they have been positioned. This technique is known as gliding.

An easy way to visualize what this does is to picture the flow of energy in your body as like plumbing. Sometimes directly manipulating the pipes with pressure works to eliminate blockages. But other times, you need to take a plunger to the problem, using negative pressure to pull things out.


In addition to treating the stagnation-based illnesses, cupping has been reported to leave a long-term feeling of relaxation and invigoration. It does not harm you when performed by someone properly trained in the technique, and is perfectly safe to use in conjunction with other more mainstream forms of medicine. It is very popular in China and has a long history of use in acupuncture practice. 

Acupuncture Stimulation

Acupuncture needles are often stimulated with electricity to eliminate stagnation of blood and energy in a specific location or pathway which may be causing pain or preventing function or healing.  Prior to 1950 Acupuncturists used manual stimulation of needles to accomplish this result, however, this manual stimulation is quite uncomfortable for the patient.  With the introduction of electric stimulation, better and faster results are seen and patient comfort is much increased.

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