The first appointment is longer. To provide for a thorough diagnosis, you will be asked detailed questions on your main health complaint, as well as your previous medical history, current symptoms, and other relevant information such as your sleep pattern and diet. Your pulses will be taken on both wrists and your tongue looked at. The pulse and tongue are outward manifestations of what is happening inside the body and can give valuable information for diagnosis. Very fine, sterile, single-use acupuncture needles will be inserted at points selected to affect your whole body, as well as your symptoms, and you will usually be left to rest for a while before these are removed. Many commonly-used acupuncture points are located on the lower arms and legs, so it is helpful to wear loose-fitting clothing. Alternatively, a patient gown will be provided.
Acupuncture needles are extremely fine (so fine that you can fit about ten of them into the shaft of a hypodermic needle used by medical doctors). Most people do not feel the acupuncture needle being inserted. When the needle connects with the energy, or Qi, of the acupuncture point, it is normal to feel a mild tingling, warmness, numb sensation, or slight dull ache. Many people find acupuncture deeply relaxing and often feel very calm after a treatment. You might feel a little tired but this passes quickly. Ideally, you should refrain from vigorous exercise after treatment and give yourself a little time to rest. It is also advisable not to drink alcohol for several hours after treatment. Acupuncture has very few side effects and any that do occur are usually mild and self-correcting. Cupping and guasha can sometimes temporarily mark the skin. Such bruising is painless and generally clears within a day or two.
This will vary from person to person, depending on the nature of the illness or condition being treated. Alison will discuss this with you. Improvement of the main health complaint is commonly felt within 4-6 treatments, although many people notice an immediate improvement or change in symptoms from the start of treatment. Most people experience additional benefits, such as an improvement in their sleep, energy levels or general wellbeing. Weekly treatment is advisable to begin with, reducing in frequency as symptoms improve. With the main complaint resolved or under control, some people choose to have monthly or 6-weekly 'top-ups' to stay well and to experience the continuing benefits of vitality and wellbeing.
As the British Acupuncture Council details, two research studies conducted in 2011 and 2012 concluded that when practiced by properly trained and qualified traditional acupuncturists, such as members of the BAcC, the risk of adverse events from acupuncture is ‘extremely low.