Because traditional Chinese medicine predates the more invasive medical testing used in conventional Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine requires skill in a range of diagnostic systems not commonly used outside of traditional Chinese medicine. Many people unfamiliar with Eastern medicine often want to know more about what to expect during an initial treatment, what acupuncture feels like, and whether acupuncture needles hurt.
Typical acupuncture treatments use diagnostic systems which include performing an in-depth acupuncture therapy medical intake, tongue diagnosis and observation, and pulse diagnosis, which allow for an individualized diagnosis specifically tailored to the patient, the chief complaint, and the condition or disease. One of the core strengths of Chinese medical treatments is its ability to diagnose in such fine detail.
Once a diagnosis is determined, the acupuncture treatment may begin. Most of the commonly used acupuncture points are located below the elbows and below the knees. Therefore, patients usually just have to roll up their sleeves and pants and lay down on the table. If possible, it is recommended that patients come dressed in loose comfortable clothing. If additional points are required, gowns and draping are provided. Each point is then cleaned with an alcohol swab and the fine sterile disposable acupuncture needle is inserted. Acupuncture needles commonly remain in place for fifteen to forty minutes depending on the acupuncture treatment. Care is taken to ensure that a patient is neither too hot nor too cold while resting. Patient are always attended to during through the acupuncture treatment to make sure they are comfortable. Acupuncture treatments tend to be very relaxing and many people fall asleep during treatments.
At the end of the acupuncture treatment, the needles are removed and disposed of. If treatment of the condition will include taking traditional Chinese herbal medicine, it is discussed at this point.
Acupuncture therapy medical intake Back to top
The initial acupuncture treatment begins with an in-depth acupuncture therapy medical intake in which is discussed the patient’s chief complaint and overall health. This includes common questions about allergies, hospitalizations, medications, and previous diagnoses. it is helpful for the patient to bring a list of any medications, vitamins and supplements she may be taking.
In addition, acupuncturists ask further questions to gain a deeper picture of health. These diagnostic questions are designed to shed light on some of the more subtle clues as to how a patient’s qi is flowing and where imbalances may be: How is your energy level? At what point during the day is your energy the lowest? When is it the highest? Do you tend to be too hot or too cold? If too cold, does your whole body get cold or just your hands and feet? Do you like to drink warm drinks or cold drinks? How is your appetite and digestion? What foods do you crave? Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you have trouble staying asleep? How is your level of stress and what do you do to reduce it?
If the patient is female, then some of the questions will be gynecological in nature. All of these questions pull out pieces of helpful information for an acupuncturist that might escape the awareness of other people who are not looking for them. These questions not only help create a diagnosis, but they also give the patient a framework from which to begin learning about and judging her own health.
In subsequent visits, the acupuncture therapy medical intake is much shorter. The medical intake highlights any changes that have happened since the last treatment.
Tongue Diagnosis and Observation Back to top
Next, the top surface and underside of the patient’s tongue is observed. The tongue is the only muscle in the human body that can be seen from the outside. Therefore, tongue observation gives Chinese medical acupuncturists detailed information about the strength and quality of qi and blood in the body. In small children, the vein of the index finger is observed for the same reason.
Pulse Diagnosis Back to top
Finally, radial artery pulse in each wrist is taken. In pulse diagnosis, Chinese medical acupuncturists palpate in three different positions to feel for the strength and quality of qi and blood.
How many acupuncture treatments will I need? Back to top
The amount of acupuncture treatments needed depends completely on the duration, severity and nature of a patient’s complaint. Acute conditions and diseases tend to need less acupuncture treatments than more chronic conditions. Because traditional Chinese medicine treats such a wide range of ailments, a reasonable estimate can only be given once the nature of the complaint is understood. For example, resolution of acute back pain in an otherwise healthy person may take one treatment, depending on the severity of symptoms, whereas it may take months to achieve pregnancy in a woman with fertility issues. Appointments are generally scheduled further and further apart once the desired results have been achieved. Once the chief complaint is resolved, patients may return 2-4 times per year for a check up and some slight rebalancing.