A First Appointment For Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

May 30, 2014 Updated: May 30, 2014

Many people are unfamiliar with Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. They want to know what to expect when they go to see a Chinese Medicine practitioner for the first time. So I am going to tell you! I write based on my own practice and I’m sure customs vary, depending on your acupuncturist, but this post will give you a good general overview.

When a new patient comes to see me, I ask them to come 10-15 minutes early to fill out paperwork, have eaten something beforehand and, if possible, to wear comfortable clothing (I do have gowns and towels at the office, if needed).

Some of the questions included in the initial paperwork include: What is your main complaint? How much caffeine do you consume? What supplements and/or medications are you taking? What is your energy level? How often do you have a bowel movement? Do you prefer foods that are cold or hot? I also have several sections where people can check off specific concerns that apply to them.

Once the paperwork is done we go back to the treatment room and I ask even more questions. I will also look at your tongue and take your pulses (find out more about pulse diagnosis with the link). Then, I usually have some lifestyle and dietary suggestions. For example, one very common suggestion I make (and have written about several times on my blog) is to drink ginger tea because it is simple and very helpful for such a wide variety of problems.

I give each patient a brief explanation of how their complaints are seen through the philosophy of Chinese Medicine. I explain treatment options, for example, acupuncture, herbal supplements and cupping. Almost all of my patients receive acupuncture, and many also enjoy the benefits of cupping and herbs. One general rule is: the longer a problem has been bothering you, the more treatment you will need to diminish it. So, if you’re coming in for a recent sinus infection, a couple of treatments and some herbs should get you feeling better quickly. However, if it is a longstanding pain like sciatica and it has been plaguing you for a year, you may feel relief after the first appointment, but will probably need several treatments to sustain the results. To those who are new to acupuncture, I explain that while the needle insertion is not usually painful, I do like to get some sensation once the needle is inserted. It feels different to different people and in different spots, but most do not mind it and it makes the treatments more effective.

Once the needles are in place and my patient is comfortable. I dim the lights, play relaxing music and leave them in for 20-50 minutes depending on the patient and the problem. I usually check on my patients while their needles are in and often re-stimulate the needles during the treatment. I am never far away and people can always call out to me. The majority of my patients find the treatments very relaxing and look forward to coming in.

Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc, is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago, Illinois, since 2002. Dubowsky earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from University of Illinois in Chicago and her Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colorado. During her studies, she completed an internship at the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing, China. Dubowsky has researched and written articles on Chinese medicine and has given talks on the topic. She maintains a popular blog about health and Chinese medicine at Acupuncture Blog Chicago. Adventures in Chinese Medicine is her first book. You can find her at www.tcm007.com.
*Image of “pulse diagnosis” via Shutterstock