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Your First Acupuncture Treatment: 9 Tips to Set Yourself Up for Success

Acupuncture is becoming more mainstream in the US. This can be seen as more insurance plans cover acupuncture treatment, and more doctors are referring their patients to acupuncturists for complementary care. At Sparkes Acupuncture in Oakland, NJ, we work together with Dr. Charles S. Corallo, a board certified chiropractic physician with 30 years experience in pain management and holistic healthcare.

Acupuncture has been in use for thousands of years, and is effective as a standalone therapy as well as in combination with other therapies. Acupuncture can treat a wide variety of conditions from all types of pain to insomnia to digestive issues to bells palsy (and lots more!).

Even though there is a lot of "buzz" about acupuncture, it's still new to most people. And just knowing that it exists doesn't mean you know what to expect! Understanding what to do and not to do can make all the difference in helping you to be confident when you come to your first session.

The following 9 tips will help you understand a little bit about our process, so that you know what to expect and can get the most of out your treatment.

1. Wear (or bring) loose fitting clothes.

Many acupuncture points are on the legs below the knees and the arms below the elbows. This means skinny jeans and tight, long sleeved shirts will likely interfere with treatment.

If you're being treated for pain or a specific injury, your acupuncturist will want to examine the affected area and possibly also treat that area locally. To access certain areas, such as the lower back, your clothing may need to be adjusted. Wearing layers when you come for treatment is a good idea. When clothing is adjusted or removed, your acupuncturist will always make sure you are properly & modestly draped, so that you are comfortable and warm throughout treatment.

2. Answer interview questions honestly & completely.

Acupuncture is a holistic health therapy. This means that in addition to details about your specific concerns, acupuncturists are also interested in how the body functions as a whole. When filling out your intake forms as well as in the initial interview, the more information we have about your history + current health as well as your lifestyle, the better.

Your acupuncturist will use this information to create an individualized treatment plan for you. As your treatments go on, you may find acupuncture helping you in ways you didn't expect! Patients often notice "side effects" of better sleep, improved digestion, etc.

3. Eat something first.

While we don't recommend having a full meal right before treatment, it's best to have a light meal or snack before receiving acupuncture treatment. Patients who come to treatment on an empty stomach may feel light headed or dizzy after treatment. To optimize healing, eat just enough that you're not hungry, but not so much that you're stuffed. It's also best to avoid caffeine right before your appointment.

4. Don't brush your tongue before treatment.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses some diagnostic techniques that are not commonplace in Western Medicine. This includes looking at the tongue to help make a diagnosis. Its shape, quality, color, and coating are all taken into account. For this reason, it's best not to eat colorful candy or brush your tongue before your treatment.

Pulse diagnosis is also commonplace in TCM. Feeling your pulse on each wrist gives your acupuncturist an idea of the state of your energy, and can provide them with important diagnostic information. At the time of treatment, you may be asked to remove watches or jewelry that puts any pressure on your wrists.

5. Don't worry about the needles!

Acupuncture needles are about as fine as a cat whisker: they are nothing like the hypodermic needles you are used to from the doctor's office. For this reason, we often refer to them as "pins"--however, this still doesn't do their size justice--they are much thinner than a typical pin!

While some patients occasionally feel a slight pinch at insertion, or a temporary heavy sensation after a point has been stimulated, acupuncture is not a painful experience.

Our needles are sterile, hypoallergenic, and never reused.

6. Get ready to relax.

While acupuncture is more like a medical office visit rather than a spa appointment, it is very relaxing. After the pins have been inserted in the acupuncture points, you will relax on the table for around 15 minutes. This is a great time to clear your mind, meditate, or take a nap. Most people go into a deep state of relaxation--this is a state where profound healing occurs.

7. Keep relaxing after treatment.

While it's not strictly forbidden, if you want to get the most out of your sessions, plan to go to the gym or do any strenuous activity before rather than after your treatment session. Acupuncture activates a healing process that continues after you leave the office. This doesn't mean you need to stay in bed for the rest of the day--going on a walk or other light activity is encouraged, just be aware of your energy levels and try not to overdo it.

8. Stay hydrated.

Being hydrated is vital to the body's natural healing processes, and optimizes the effects of your acupuncture treatment. Have a cup of water in our office before you leave, or bring your reusable water bottle with you. Warm water with lemon & a pinch of sea salt is a great way to hydrate & restore electrolyte balance.

9. Give your acupuncturist feedback.

After your sessions, pay attention to how you feel--your acupuncturist will ask you at the start of your next treatment! Some patients like to make a journal or take notes to help them remember how they felt between treatments. This information will help your practitioner continue to tailor your treatment to fit your needs.


If you've had acupuncture before, do you have anything to add to this list? Let us know!

We hope this helps you to feel prepared as you walk into your first acupuncture session.

To schedule your first acupuncture appointment, click the Book Now button on the home page or give us a call. We look forward to learning about you & helping you heal!

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