You’re going to finally take the leap and come to the dark side.
We think you’ll like what you find.
The first time visiting an acupuncturist is scary — don’t ever feel bad about saying it out loud. Very few people really love needles and get excited about letting some stranger poke them.
It’s OK! Just be honest with your provider and let them know you’re nervous. A good acupuncturist should slow things down for you, thoroughly explain what they are doing, and check in often to make sure you are comfortable.
Sometimes knowing just what to expect helps too, so here’s how things go in our office.
Upon arrival, you should feel welcomed and will likely have paperwork to fill out. I generally tell people that the paperwork is the worst part of the whole visit — we are really nosey people.
Consider using the bathroom and grabbing water, if available. You’re about to do a lot of chatting and likely do a treatment too, so get prepared to settle in!
Next comes the part where we get into all the dirty details. Why are you here? Tell me everything! Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s talk about your poop, how often you pee, what your mood is REALLY like, PMS (honesty please), whether you sleep well and how your energy is. Basically a system review from head to toe. You’ll likely be exhausted after all the questioning, feel like everything is wrong with you and you never even knew, and maybe just a little embarrassed that this new person knows all the intimate details about how your body works. We know it’s hard for you first-timers, but seriously, there’s not much that surprises us anymore, so don’t worry that we are analyzing, judging or internally laughing at you.
Once we know EVERYTHING, we get to the part you’ll really want to pay attention to. This is the time for your acupuncturist to tell you how they think they can help, what to expect in terms of changes in your body, and review their ideal treatment plan. Make sure you know what physical, mental and/or emotional effects to look for, when you’re supposed to come back and what the short- and long-term goals are. Also, ask questions! There are no stupid questions!
Time to get to work! Assuming your acupuncturist does a treatment on the first day, they will then move you to the treatment table after asking you to remove your socks, shoes and whatever else is necessary for them to get to important acupuncture points.
TIP: Wear a shirt that has sleeves that easily go up to your elbows and pants that roll up to your knees without cutting off all the circulation to your feet. Let me just say, as an acupuncturist, I think skinny jeans are ruining my life.
Your acupuncturist has likely made some decisions at this point about your Chinese medical diagnosis and acupuncture point selection, however, many of us use old-school tools to confirm that we’re on the right track. Expect them to check your pulse on each wrist and possibly look at your tongue. Yes, it’s weird, but imagine 3,000 years ago. They didn’t have a lot of great ways to figure out what was going on inside the body, so this is what they came up with, and we continue to use this method because it really is effective!
Poke, poke. All acupuncturists have different styles and techniques, so this could go a lot of different ways, but always let them know if you have any pain or discomfort, or if you are uncomfortable with what they are doing in any way or where they are working.
Generally you can expect to lie on the treatment table for 25-40 minutes with your needles in, hopefully with some nice music and whatever you need to be hot/cool enough. Often, your practitioner will come in to check on you or maybe give you a call button in case you need something. Rest, think happy thoughts, doze off if you want — it should be a nice get away from life for a little bit.
Once you’re done “cooking,” your acupuncturist will take all the needles out (easy, don’t expect any discomfort), give you any additional instructions and let you put yourself back together. You might feel relaxed, chill, slightly light-headed, ready for a nap. We call this “acu-stoned,” and it’s a good thing. Just a result of all of the feel-good chemicals and hormones that acupuncture elicits.
Last thing, expect to deal with payment, possibly rescheduling and maybe hit up the bathroom one more time.
TIP: Acupuncture is NOT a tipped service. It would be like tipping your doctor, so don’t even think about it!
There you have it: what to expect when expecting your first visit at an acupuncturist. All good stuff, super-easy and something that you’ll likely come to look forward to for many reasons.