It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of acupuncture. I’ve actually been using this modality for healing, support, and general health for over a decade now. While many people dismiss acupuncture as woo-woo pseudoscience, all I can say is that from my experience: it works! But everyone is different. So, what works for me might not work for you.
The best thing to keep in mind with any kind of healing modality is to listen to your own body for what works for you. Just because you’ve heard about acupuncture from some random chick on the internet (hi, that’s me), it doesn’t mean it will be the best fit for you. And that’s okay!
My hope is that this post will inspire you to take care of your health in a holistic way that suits your own personal needs. In this blog, I’ll fill you in on what the heck acupuncture even is, what cupping is, and I’ll also share my top 7 tips of how to prepare for your first acupuncture session so you can go into it feeling as informed as possible.
How To Prepare For Your First Acupuncture Session
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where a practitioner inserts thin needles on specific points on the body. These points are based on the TCM understanding of the body, which revolves around meridians, energy, and organs.
Unlike hypodermic needles (needles that are hollow to administer vaccines), acupuncture needles are solid. Acupuncture needles don’t contain any substances, and they’re quite thin.
Acupuncture can be used to treat health issues and injuries, alike. It’s a practice that strives towards total wellness of the body, mind, and heart. Unlike allopathic medicine, acupuncture treats the patient holistically. This means if you go in for a stomach ache, they might start asking you about your mental and emotional wellbeing to get a better understanding of the physical symptoms.
It’s important to note that the needles in acupuncture are so small that they truly don’t hurt. They’re just like the tiniest little pin pricks you can imagine. The only time there’s discomfort is when they hit a point that is blocked, imbalanced, or associated with a part of the body that’s suffering in some way. It should never be to the point of pain, and if it is, definitely let your practitioner know.
What is Cupping?
Cupping is a practice that also comes from TCM, where glass cups are suctioned onto different points in the body that create a vacuum like effect to stimulate blood flow in the area (otherwise known as Qi). In some practices heat is also applied to the cups to intensify the process.
Many acupuncturists also couple needles with cupping for more effective treatments. This will, of course, totally depend on what your specific needs are. Typically, cups are applied to areas of the body that are in pain or injured. However, there are also times when cupping is appropriate for those going to acupuncture for mental or emotional needs, as well. Your TCM practitioner will know what’s best for you.
7 Tips To Prepare For Acupuncture
Hopefully you’re starting to get excited for your first acupuncture appointment. I mean, I’m over here getting excited for you! But, before you go, I want to make sure you’re prepared with my top 5 tips to know before your first acupuncture session. These are all points that will help you feel grounded in the process. Because sometimes trying something new can feel scary and vulnerable, ya know?
Plus, these tips will (hopefully) help you to save money, optimize your service, and help you feel as good as possible before and after your acupuncture treatment.
First things first, the best way to find an acupuncturist near you is through recommendations from people you trust. It’s easy to Google acupuncturists near you. And, of course, you can always read reviews to get a good understanding of a person beforehand. However, in my experience, I find the best acupuncture practitioners through recommendations of others in my community.
It’s important that you seek this recommendation from someone who you trust. And someone who you believe to have similar values as you do regarding healthcare. Otherwise, you might get recommended to go somewhere that’s not aligned to you and your needs.
If you’re brand new to an area, and you truly don’t know anyone who can recommend you to an acupuncturist, then hop on the Google train and read reviews to get your started.
Next thing you’ll want to take into account is insurance. The good news is that a lot of insurance companies cover acupuncture now! So cool. And what’s even better is that many acupuncturists allow insurance coverage for payment.
I want to make sure to mention this, because many people don’t know that acupuncture is covered (or at least partially covered) under insurance. And, let’s be real, one acupuncture session isn’t cheap! It’s likely going to be at least $100 for one hour.
So, if you want to save a few hundred dollars a month, then make sure to check in prior to your appointment.
Let’s hope that the recommended acupuncturist also accepts your insurance, and your insurance mostly covers the cost of your first visit. You’re in good shape. Now, you need to prepare for the first session itself.
Typically, the first time you see an acupuncturist, the entire treatment will be longer than the standard one hour time slot, because they take time to get to know you through an intake session. Sometimes this means you’ll get an intake form sent to you beforehand to fill out. Other times it’s a form that you fill in at the office, and review in person. Either way, your first session will be a deep dive into you, your needs, your past, and current life.
The most important thing to remember with the intake process is to be honest. It might feel a little uncomfortable for a stranger to be asking you about your childhood trauma when you’re there for a shoulder injury, but just trust me when I say it’s all connected, ok? You acupuncturist needs to be someone you can trust, someone you feel safe with, and someone you can open up in order for it to really work.
What To Wear
Now you’re about to leave for your first acupuncture treatment, and you’re like: am I supposed to wear something specific to this?
Look, if you’re coming from work, I’m not saying that you need to bring a change of clothes if it’s going to feel like a hassle. But what I will say is that when you wear loose and comfy clothing, the acupuncturist can put needles anywhere more easily.
This is my favorite outfit to wear to acupuncture, and I now have it in three colors. Trust me on this one.
Most offices also have gowns for you to put on, or sheets to get under like you would for a massage if they really need full access. I still like to suggest cozy wear, because you’re going to be laying on the table for 30 or 40 minutes, so you want to make sure that you’re comfortable!
I don’t know, I couldn’t imagine laying on the acupuncture table trying to meditate wearing a suit, or jeans. But maybe that’s just me. I’m a loose fitting clothes kinda girl.
You might have noticed in my last point I mentioned that big scary word MEDITATION. And you might be thinking: Wait, what? I didn’t sign up for meditation, I signed up for acupuncture.
Here’s the thing, after the intake portion then they’ll have you get on the table to put in the needles and possibly the cups. Once the needles are in and cups are on, they usually leave the room for about 30 minutes. Sometimes longer. So, you’re laying on the table with soft lighting, soft music, and probably a heat lamp hovering over you. Most of the time, people are like: what the hell am I supposed to do now?
This is where meditation comes into play. All you need to do is close your eyes, and try to focus on your breath. That’s it. Just try to slow down your thoughts, as you’ve already slowed down your body by resting in stillness. You don’t have access to your phone, or headphones- so you’re not taking in information. You’re resting. Maybe you even take a freaking nap! Whatever it is, allow yourself that time and space to just be.
What To Eat
I should start off by saying that Chinese medicine is not a huge fan of fasting. Like…at all. So, I doubt you’ll ever find an acupuncturist who recommends that you come to a session with an empty stomach.
Clearly all of our bodies are different, including our blood sugar, appetites, and general preference for timing of food. So, if you do go to a session without eating, and you feel fine- great! Otherwise, I’d suggest being comfortable in every regard, including in your belly.
That means you didn’t starve yourself for hours prior, nor did you stuff yourself to the brim. While there’s nothing wrong with having a big meal, or greasy foods, you’ll just want to make sure that you have it a few hours before your appointment so that you can digest. I mean, c’mon, imagine getting acupuncture needles in your stomach when you’re overly full.
What To Drink
I stopped drinking caffeine centuries ago at this point, so I can’t speak from experience of what it would be like to drink coffee before or after an appointment. I’m sure for some of you who are used to daily coffee, you’d be fine. However, you should know that most practitioners advice for you to avoid caffeine directly before or after treatment.
It’s important that you’re hydrated before your appointment, and that you also continue to hydrate after your treatment. And you know me, I’m just here to remind you to add LMNT to your water to make sure you get all the nutrients.
How Many Acupuncture Sessions Do You Need?
The number of sessions you need will really depend on what you’re going in for. I know some people who have gone in for injuries, and have felt relief from one session. While others, like myself, go weekly.
Your own medical history will dictate the number of acupuncture sessions you need. And your needs might vary as your life changes. Perhaps you get pain relief from one or two sessions alone. Or maybe you need monthly care. You and your practitioner will be able to come up with a treatment plan that works best for your needs and your budget.
I’m so excited for you to try our acupuncture for the first time. Let me know how it goes!