What is an acupuncture treatment like?

Getting acupuncture for the first time is usually a little intimidating for most people.  After all, it is portrayed in the media with great glee as hundreds of tiny scary needles stuck all over the face and body.  This is in fact, not what an acupuncture treatment by a licensed professional looks like.  From an acupuncturist’s perspective, it is broadly understood that it is best to use the minimum number of needles necessary to do the job – usually this is between 5-15.

To give you a better idea of what to expect, let’s do an overview of what a typical acupuncture session will entail at Triangle Acupuncture Clinic:

  1. Once you’ve checked in at the front desk, your acupuncturist will take you back to your private treatment room.  This room is usually softly lit and has a comfortable chair for you to sit in as well as a massage table with soft linens where you will have your acupuncture treatment. 
  2. Depending on the nature of your issue, your acupuncturist will then talk with you about your health concerns for anywhere from 5-30 minutes.  If you’re having pain, we may do some diagnostic testing.  Once your acupuncturist has collected enough information to make decisions about what points they need to use and any other modalities that you may benefit from such as moxibustion, cupping, massage, or herbal medicine, they will then communicate their treatment strategy to you and make sure you understand what to expect both during and after the treatment. 
  3. We give you a chance to use the restroom if needed and then you settle onto the massage table with just the right number of pillows to make sure you can stay comfortable for the next 30-45 minutes.  Our massage tables heat up if you like and we also have a separate infrared heating lamp that can be positioned over your feet or any other part of your body that might benefit.  The infrared heat produced by this lamp penetrates deeper into the body than just a regular heating pad and it is a favorite bonus feature of acupuncture treatments in our office. 
  4. If you’ve never had acupuncture before, your acupuncturist will show you what a needle looks like, and even demonstrate how it is inserted.  You’ll likely be surprised at how thin and flexible the little needles are.  Then it’s time for treatment.  It often takes just a few minutes for all the points to be inserted.  The needles go just under the skin in most cases, sometimes deeper into bigger muscles when there is pain.  While there are acupuncture points all over the body, the points most frequently used are below the knees, below the elbows, on the back, on the abdomen and on the head.  There are lots of great acupuncture points for relaxation on the scalp and on the outside of the ears.  We do sometimes do acupuncture on the face – it is amazing for opening the sinuses during allergy season or for sinus infections.  Even tinier needles are used on the face for a specific type of cosmetic acupuncture, acupuncture that can soften lines and bring incredible circulation to the face.  If you are nervous about having points in a particular spot – just let us know!  Our goal is to make sure you are comfortable. 
  5. After the needles are in, you will rest for 20-40 minutes.  We dim the lights and there is relaxing music playing in the background.  We leave you with a bell or button you can press to get our attention if you are uncomfortable.  Most of the time you will just rest or even take a nap.  If you’ve asked us to turn on the massage table warmer, you will likely drift off into a warm cocoon of sleep until we come back to take the needles out. 
  6. At the end of your treatment, we make sure you understand the continuing treatment schedule as needed.  Most people feel relaxed and go on to have a great night's sleep the day of acupuncture treatment.  There aren’t any restrictions on what you can do for the rest of the day – go on as you normally would.  The only caveat is that it’s best not to vigorously exercise directly after acupuncture to give your body some time to process all the great feel-good hormones and relaxation.    

That’s it!  It is understandable to be nervous about getting acupuncture for the first time.  We make a big effort to make sure you have a comfortable experience while getting your health concerns addressed.  Acupuncture has a uniquely relaxing and what some call “balancing” effect.  We can’t wait for you to try it! 

We’re happy to answer any of your specific questions about acupuncture, just call our Raleigh office, 919-854-7311 or our Chapel Hill location, 919-933-4480. 

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