What can you expect to experience today if you go to see a mainstream TCM or integrative acupuncturist today?
1) You will usually be asked to fill out a lengthy questionaire and to sign a waiver. The former provides the acupuncturist with wide ranging information without having to do an exhaustive interview with you. The latter exists because of the rare side effects that can result from acupuncture. These include bruising, bleeding, swelling, fainting, post-treatment fatigue, and dizziness. No matter the skill of the practitioner side effects will occasionally, though rarely, occur and cannot be avoided 100% of the time. The same is true with any medical procedure.
2) Your pulse will be taken and your tongue will be looked at. These are ways to assess the state of the meridians and internal organs. Excellent practitioners can tell amazing amounts of information from these examinations. You will also be asked various questions about your health and you may be asked to do some simple movements to test muscles and locate injuries.
3) You will be asked to take off as much clothing as is necessary for the acupuncturist to access the points they intend to use. The acupuncturist will return after you are ready and will locate and needle the points. They may also apply moxa and/or cupping. Moxa is a technique where Chinese mugwort (ai ye) is burned near acupuncture points. The heat and the resins of the plant penetrate the point and bring healing. Cupping consists in applying warmed glass suction cups to areas of the body as a way to break up fascial adhesion and blood stagnation and can bring intense relief to muscular injuries and tension.
4) You walk out feeling relaxed. You may feel tired. If you were seeking a treatment for pain you may feel an immediate reduction in pain. Alternately you may feel temporarily more sore. In most cases anywhere from 1 hour to 24 hours later you will feel significant improvement in a pain condition. Other conditions which tend to respond quickly include anxiety, insomnia, and addictions. More systemic issues like immune conditions, digestive problems, reproductive conditions, etc. will usually show improvement only after several treatments.
That brings the first phase of this series to an end......after a hiatus I hope to return with some posts on the history of Chinese medicine.