The first question in a patient’s mind regarding acupuncture is usually, “Will it hurt?” Most of us have our personal experiences of hypodermic needle injections from vaccinations, blood draws, IV’s from surgeries or hospital stays that color our expectations. It comes as a great relief to the needle phobic and even the needle cautious patient that the sensation of acupuncture ranges from a slight, temporary pinch or dull ache to no sensation at all. The office uses sterile, disposable filiform (thread-like) needles. It continues to amaze me that such a powerful form of medicine with such far reaching healing potential is such a gentle, non-invasive procedure. I have even demonstrated acupuncture needling on myself in order to take the fear factor out of the process for my patients.
The initial paperwork will include a patient history and the signing of release forms. The state of Colorado has a standard Acupuncture release form every patient should sign. The patient history is discussed along with my own verbal inquiry based on a Chinese medicine categorization of symptoms. I then examine the tongue as it is a geographical map disclosing more information about internal health, especially regarding digestive health and the processing and assimilation of food. The pulse is my next tool. I palpate three different positions along the wrist on both hands. Each position has a designated organ system (such as Lung, Heart, etc.) and I use this diagnostic tool to further confirm the information I have gathered thus far. I will usually check the pulse several times during a session to notice changes that take place during treatment. As acupuncture works with the energetic system of a body to assist physiological changes, the pulse gives me my first objective findings regarding positive change in a system.
The treatment rooms are quiet and relaxing with soothing music and adjustable tables for the comfort of the patient. A heat lamp can be used to provide additional warmth for exposed areas. Appropriate draping techniques are always used for the privacy and respect of the patient. I personally prefer treating both the front and back of the body for most conditions so expect to lie face down for half of the session and face up for the second half. Some patients prefer to sit upright for treatment and that is also an option.
Once I have decided on a treatment protocol I begin the insertion of acupuncture needles, always keeping in mind the level of comfort for the patient. If necessary, I change what I am doing to accommodate their response to treatment. Some patients have points that they prefer and others have points that they don’t want me to use. There are over 400 points in the body and although I have my own preferences for certain conditions, there are always other options!
It is best to show up for an appointment having had a light snack and some water. As the stimulation of acupuncture points affects the central nervous system via the sensory nervous system, most patients report a general sense of relaxation and well-being after a session including a degree of pain relief. Acupuncture activates a process of healing in the body; the full results of a treatment can continue for up to 72 hours, so one might feel even better the next day or so. This process builds upon itself so it is important to receive several treatments close together. I like to see new patients two times a week for two weeks. This is usually enough time for the patient to begin to subjectively verify a positive change in their condition. Then we decide the next level of frequency and attempt to determine how many more treatments it will take to achieve the desired result.
Some patients receive the benefits they seek in less time, some take longer. For internal conditions, diet, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes may be recommended. Chinese herbal therapies are another tool I might use. A more thorough description of techniques is available on the AcuFrisco.com website. For many patients, the first treatment is just the first step and once the results for the original complaint are achieved a patient will often move on to using this ancient system of healing to address other concerns or simply to strengthen their systems in order to prevent injury and illness.
Anita Alexandra, L.Ac., CH is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with 16+ years of experience. She practices at Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture, 619 Main Street, Frisco. (970)668-3299.