Diagnosis: An acupuncturist’s diagnosis is determined in part using methods similar to other health care practitioners: asking patients for a thorough history of their health, diet, exercise patterns and chief complaints; performing a physical exam, and making a referral to a specialist, as necessary. However, the acupuncturist also uses unique diagnostic techniques, such as taking the patient’s pulse on both wrists and observing the tongue, complexion and other signs. The three pulses felt on each wrist are thought to correspond to certain organs and functions. The practitioner should explain the nature of your problem, the recommended treatment plan and an anticipated prognosis (outcome).
Treatment Procedures: Modern acupuncture needles are stainless steel, between one-half and three inches long, ultra-fine and quite flexible. They are pre-sterilized; nontoxic and disposable (single use). When the needles are tapped into the skin, there may not be any sensation.
Much depends on the location (hands and feet tend to be more sensitive), the condition being treated and the acupuncturist’s technique. Needles are typically placed in several acu-points and are usually left in about 20-40 minutes. The goal is to normalize the circulation of Qi and blood by stimulating the energy point, which encourages the body’s natural healing process. Stimulation can be done by rotating the needles manually or attaching electrodes to send a weak electric current through the needles (electro acupuncture). The number of treatments depends upon the duration, severity and nature of your health condition. Two or three treatments may be sufficient for an acute condition, while a series of 5 to 15 treatments may be needed to resolve chronic conditions. Some degenerative conditions may require ongoing treatments over a long period of time. Techniques used may include: moxibustion (burning herbs to heat acupoints), cupping (suction), auricular therapy (ear acupuncture), tui-na (manipulation) and acupressure.
Patients should evaluate their progress after each session. Some relief should be apparent in two or three sessions, or six to eight sessions for more pervasive conditions. Sometimes the results are immediate. If you see encouraging signs, stick with it. Ask your practitioner questions about your treatment and improvement. If your response to treatment is not satisfactory, the practitioner may consider further diagnostic exams, modify the treatment plan or refer to an appropriate practitioner, if necessary.