What should you expect during a visit to the clinic?

Only disposable, single use, sterile needles are used, and they are discarded immediately after treatment. The needles are tiny and nothing like hypodermic syringe needles. They come in different widths and lengths, like other types of needles used in medicine. However, acupuncture needles are so thin that 15 average sized needles can fit inside an average hypodermic (injection) needle. Because the needle points are rounded compared to an injection needle, the sensation is completely different. Most of the time no pain is felt. However, other sensations such as heaviness, numbness, warmth, etc., are often felt. The acupuncturist generally takes this as a sign that the “qi,” or energy, is being affected by the needle, meaning that the acupuncture is working. You should not feel any actual discomfort for more than half a second, however, so feedback on the needling sensations is encouraged.

When you come to the clinic, besides any paperwork, you will be asked some questions about your condition and can volunteer any information you think would be helpful. Your tongue will be looked at and your pulse will be felt on both wrists. (These are millennia-old Chinese diagnostic methods). After a diagnosis is made based on the combination of what is seen, heard, and felt, a combination of acupuncture points is selected and the actual acupuncture is administered. Acupuncture points located all over the body, but the most commonly used ones are on the scalp, below the elbows and knees, and on the back. Usually a combination of points near the affected part of the body are used along with points on other parts of the body, which might seem strange to some people, but is easily explained by the acupuncturist. After treatment, people generally feel relaxed and refreshed (besides having relief from their condition). Generally, effects are immediate or onset is a few hours after treatment. Some people feel results the next day instead. The effects last anywhere from a few hours to a week, again depending on the individual and their condition. Herbal medicines are available for almost every condition; they enhance and prolong the effects of your acupuncture treatment. You may ask for them even if they are not suggested. They are always optional, but their cost is not included in the treatment. Sometimes it will be necessary to place an order for your herbs and pick them up at a later time. Payment is due at the time of treatment.

How often do I need to come to the clinic?

In the same way that different drugs are prescribed for different conditions, so are different combinations of acupuncture points used to treat various disorders. That doesn’t mean that acupuncture cures those conditions in one treatment. In fact, usually multiple treatments are required, just like multiple doses of medication are usually required to completely cure or manage a condition. In the beginning stages, treatments are typically frequent, in order to achieve the desired result. This is the same as the way that most medications need to build up to a certain level in the body before they become therapeutic. Once you, the patient, notice a substantial change, treatment frequency can be reduced to as often as need be to maintain the results. Sometimes the reduced frequency will be once a week, sometimes it could be once a month, and sometimes it could be whenever symptoms return. It all depends on the condition and the individual. Though the frequency of treatments will be suggested to you, remember that you have the choice to discontinue if you choose.

My program of study was over 3,000 hours AFTER college!
- Troy Heinrichs, Licensed Acupuncturist # 29