Your first consultation may be longer than subsequent sessions. Your practitioner needs to assess your general state of health, identify the underlying pattern(s) of disharmony related to your current issues, and evaluate your constitutional condition in order to give you the most effective treatment.
You will be asked about your current symptoms and what treatment you have received so far, your medical history and that of your close family, your diet, digestive system, sleeping patterns and emotional state.
To assist in the diagnosis, your practitioner will feel your pulses on both wrists, noting their quality, rhythm and strength. The shape, color and coating of your tongue also gives insight into your physical health. These findings are combined with any modern Western tests and a diagnosis is achieved. Since the patient is usually not familiar with Chinese medical terminology, the diagnosis is explained in a manner that the patient can understand in relation to his/her own body. From the diagnosis, a suitable treatment plan is decided upon. This most likely will include a customized herbal formula, acupuncture treatment, and possibly other Chinese medical modalities or dietary or supplement recommendations.
For your visit, loose, comfortable clothing is appropriate. You should be aware that your acupuncturist may need to access points on your torso as well as on your arms and legs. Stimulation of specific areas on or beneath the skin affects the functioning of certain organs in the body. However, those areas may not be close to the part of the body where the problem is experienced. For example, if you suffer from headaches, needles may be inserted in your foot or hand.
There are around 500 acupuncture points on the body, from which your acupuncturist will use a selection of perhaps ten or twelve of these for each treatment. It is common that during a course of treatments, different points will be selected as your condition changes. Usually acupuncture is done with you lying comfortably on a treatment table, but sometimes it is more appropriate to have you sitting. In some cases, especially for pain problems, you will be asked to move the affected part of the body while treatment is applied to another area (that is related to the pain by meridian connections).
Acupuncture may be supplemented with moxa, a smoldering herb called mugwort, which is used to warm acupuncture points to encourage the body’s energy to flow smoothly.