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So, you’re booked in for your 1st acupuncture appointment. You’re not sure what to expect. What can you do to prepare for acupuncture?

Know What to Expect

To learn a little more about acupuncture, you can read my article on physical medicine: Natural Medicine from the Outside In. But basically, acupuncture involves placing thin needles in specific points in the skin to stimulate the movement of your body’s energy. This can point your body’s healing ability in a specific direction, relieve pain, or restore balance.

Most people hardly feel the needles. You might feel some pressure as the needles are inserted. Then, you probably won’t even notice they’re there. Sometimes, patients will feel a dull ache. It’s not really an unpleasant feeling, and it can be a sign that your body is responding to the treatment. This feeling can also be described as soreness, tingling, heaviness, itching, or burning.

What Can go Wrong

Just like any treatment, natural or otherwise, there are some risks to acupuncture that you should be aware of.

Some acupuncture points are over internal organs, like your lungs or liver. Naturopaths are taught to use the correct depth and angle to avoid puncturing these organs. But sometimes, an organ can still be punctured.

Because the needles are so thin, the consequences of an organ puncture are minor. A serious lung puncture may require a visit to the hospital, but this is extremely rare.

More common side effects of acupuncture are bruising, fainting, bleeding, a sharp sensation, or a needle that just doesn’t want to come out.

Minimizing Risk

Your Naturopath will go over these instructions with you before your treatment, but it’s good to be aware of them beforehand.

Before your Treatment

  • Eat! Don’t skip any regular meals before your acupuncture appointment. Eat just as much as you’re accustomed to – no more or less.
  • Drink. Being well-hydrated will improve your body’s tolerance of the treatment.
  • Limit alcohol intake. A little is fine, if you’re used to it.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise. Acupuncture works with your body’s energy – if you come to your appointment already exhausted, it will have nothing to work with.

During your Treatment

  • Once your needles are inserted, try to move as little as possible – movement can cause your muscles to grab on to the needles, making them more difficult to remove
  • Don’t sit or stand up until your Naturopath lets you know that all your needles have been removed. This will minimize the risk of fainting.
  • If you suddenly experience a high degree of fear, let your Naturopath know. A little apprehension is normal, but acupuncture is unlikely to be helpful if you aren’t relaxed.
  • Let your Naturopath know if you feel hot, cold, sweaty, or faint. She will remove your needles immediately.

After your Treatment

  • If there has been any bleeding from needle sites, apply pressure with a cotton swab for a few seconds. Let your Naturopath know if the bleeding doesn’t stop in under a minute.
  • When your Naturopath tells you your needles are out, sit up and then stand slowly, and return to a reclining position if you feel at all faint.
  • Take it easy. Give your body a few hours to process the treatment before doing any strenuous exercise.
  • Note any changes in energy or appetite, and follow your body’s cues. You may find you need to eat more or sleep longer after a treatment. This is normal and helpful.

Preparing for your Acupuncture Appointment

There is nothing you really need to do, outside of your normal routine, to prepare for an acupuncture appointment. However, you may want to note the following:

  • For menstruating women, it may be helpful to note where you are in your cycle. Treatments may sometimes need to be adjusted accordingly.
  • Needles may be placed in areas usually covered by clothing. A medical gown will be provided if necessary, but if you prefer to remain in your own clothing, consider wearing clothes that can comfortably be rolled up or down to expose your legs, arms, stomach, and back.
  • Don’t stress. Basically, come however you feel comfortable. If that involves Activewear, so be it 🙂

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