What is Acupuncture Like?

The initial visit is often the longest. After a conversation about your symptoms and history, there will be a 20-minute treatment. During the intake, the acupuncturists may examine the patient’s tongue, studying the color, coating, even teeth marks on the body of the tongue. In traditional Chinese medicine the tongue is considered a mirror of the body; it tells the acupuncturist which organs and meridians are involved in your illness. The traditional acupuncturist may also feel six different spots on your wrists for pulses. To practitioners, these pulses measure your overall health.

An acupuncturist may also palpate, or prod, your abdomen, which tells him or her about the state of your qi. Besides using needles, an acupuncturist may also light a moxa stick, similar to a large incense stick, made of mugwort—a Chinese variety of sage. The moxa stick is intended to create a sense of warmth, and stimulate qi. The acupuncturist may try to energize qi by stimulating the needles electrically with a small machine, which causes the needles to pulsate slightly.

Most experienced practitioners say that your symptoms should start to ease within one to two visits, and you should see significant relief within six visits. As a holistic medicine, acupuncture's effect may take a few treatments to have noticeable results. If after six sessions you have not experienced relief, your acupuncturist should re-evaluate your condition and possibly refer you to another acupuncturist with more experience or to another type of therapy.

Your acupuncturist may prescribe herbal remedies as well as diet changes and exercise.

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