You've never had acupuncture before and, frankly, the needles are a little intimidating. Do they hurt? Is it safe? What does it feel like? Let's answer some of these questions (and more!) so that there is less to fear!
When you first go to an acupuncturist, you'll discuss your health in great depth. Don't be afraid to share symptoms that seem "weird" or "unimportant;" you'd be surprised how often these symptoms fit into the picture just right and will help your acupuncturist get a more complete and accurate diagnosis for you!
After discussing your health, your acupuncturist will check your tongue. Yes, I said TONGUE! Remember, acupuncture existed LONG before modern scientific tests, so ancient acupuncturists had to rely on the body and its signs to make a diagnosis. Our tongues reflect the state of our bodies. For example, if someone is having sleep troubles, you will often find that the tip of their tongue is bright red. Try using this as a party trick sometime!
Next is reading your pulse. In Chinese medicine, we have 3 different pulses on each wrist where our Qi is represented. Your acupuncturist will check your pulse for general speed (like at your doctor's office), but they will also check it for quality - what it feels like as it travels through the blood vessel.
And finally, your acupuncturist will start inserting needles. Acupuncture needles are single-use only, which means they will only be used on you, then disposed of properly in a sharps container, just like at your doctor's office! Acupuncture needles are super small - they're only about the thickness of a single human hair. They're solid, unlike hypodermic needles used for vaccines, so there's very little pain when the needle is put in (only a mild pinch!). Once the needle is in place, it shouldn't be painful at all! Some people may feel a sense of heaviness or pressure where the needle is - this is the sensation of the Qi! Some people feel the Qi, some people don't, both are perfectly normal responses.
Acupuncture needles are usually left in place between 15-45 minutes depending on your diagnosis. During this time, many people like to meditate, relax or even fall asleep (my personal favorite is the latter!). Whatever you choose to do during this time, the important thing is to physically and mentally relax so that the medicine can do its work.
After you have rested with your needles in place, your acupuncturist will remove them. Some people may feel a little tired after an acupuncture treatment, some people may feel energized, some people won't feel any changes at all. All of these are normal responses. Talk with your acupuncturist about how quickly they might expect you to start seeing results. Some people see some changes after just one visit, some people may not see results for up to 8 visits. We're all different, and we're all in different stages of health or unhealth.
Congratulations, you've just finished your first acupuncture experience! Welcome to the beginning of your path to health!