Acupuncture; Treatment

Acupuncture; Treatment

Here are some guidelines to follow before going for acupuncture treatment:

Don’t eat an extremely heavy meal or drink alcohol right before or after your treatment.

Don’t overexert yourself.

Try to arrange your schedule so you can get some rest afterward, especially early on in the process. If you can’t, at least avoid scheduling activities that require you to be in top physical and mental condition. You may feel very relaxed or even tired after your session.

Wear comfortable clothes.

Continue taking your medications as directed by your health care professional, but make sure the acupuncturist knows what they are. Don’t ask advice from your acupuncturist to change or stop the medications, because it is your health care professional’s duty to oversee your medications.

Don’t take illegal drugs. Drugs as well as alcohol abuse will seriously interfere with the effectiveness your treatment.

The average session may last from 20 minutes to an hour; your first one may take a bit longer. The number of treatments depends, of course, on your condition and how well you respond. For some chronic or complex problems, you may need a one to three sessions a week for several months. Some conditions require maintenance therapy, just as they do in Western medicine.

If you’ve had bad experiences with shots and drawing blood, acupuncture will be different. Acupuncture needles are smooth and solid; hypodermic needles are hollow with cutting edges. This makes insertion much less painful and reduces the likelihood of bruising. Needle phobias are common and sometimes non-needling techniques may be used for phobic patients or children.

As you are needled, you may feel something akin to a mosquito bite, or perhaps a dull ache, numbness, a tingling or a warm feeling.

Once the needles are in place-they are usually left there for several minutes to 45 minutes-you probably won’t feel anything. Typically, the needles, which are much thinner than hypodermic needles, are inserted between one-quarter and one inch in depth. However, you need to stay relatively still and relaxed, since you could feel achy or tight in the needle spots if you move suddenly or you tightened your muscles.

If you are uncomfortable, tell the acupuncturist. If you feel faint, dizzy or nauseated, or become short of breath or break into a cold sweat, speak up. It’s often a function of nervousness, but your practitioner can readjust or withdraw the needles if necessary.

Acupuncture, performed correctly, has almost no side effects. You may notice that your original symptoms may seem to be aggravated after the first treatment, and you may notice changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns. You may also have a little bleeding and bruising where the needles were inserted.

Some of these side effects may indicate the acupuncture is starting to work, and they don’t last for long. If they do, talk to your regular health care professional and your acupuncturist. Often, the first one or two treatments may leave you deeply relaxed or even mildly disoriented. You should also take precautions while driving, especially after the first several sessions.

Emotionally speaking, most patients feel relaxed, energetic or even cheerful after treatment.

Make sure you keep your primary health care professional apprised of your acupuncture treatment. And keep your acupuncturist up to date on changes in your health. You may want to suggest that they talk to each other in order to reduce the chance that important medical problems will be overlooked.


The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Organization of Alternative Medicine (both organizations are part of the National Institute of Health) have and are conducting research studies on the use of acupuncture in the following areas:

The safety and effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee

The effectiveness of electroacupuncture in chronic pain and inflammation

The effect of acupuncture on the central nervous system by using MRI technology

Bringing together from the Oriental medicine and conventional medicine community to collaboratively study the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture and further development of the standards for clinical trials.

Whether acupuncture can decrease the release of adrenalin in heart patients and improve their survival and quality of life. Adrenalin can make the heart beat faster and can contribute to heart failure.

Effectiveness in treating high blood pressure

Effects of acupuncture on symptoms of advanced colorectal cancer.

Testing the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture for major depression

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is also conducting a large clinical trial, investigating the short-term and long-term safety/efficacy of acupuncture for the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Researchers hope to show that acupuncture at certain acupoints produces long-lasting blood pressure reductions in hypertensive patients but not in subjects with normal blood pressure. To be of clinical value, acupuncture must provide an antihypertensive effect that persists.

Encouraging research continues on potential acupuncture treatments for dental surgery pain, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, bronchitis, myocardial infarction and rehabilitation from stroke.


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“General Information about Acupuncture” / “Public Information” American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. Accessed June 13, 2004.

“Research Report: Acupuncture” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health. NCCAM Publication D003. March 2002. Accessed June 13, 2004.

“The Layman’s Guide to Acupuncture,” Midwest College of Oriental Medicine Accessed June 13, 2004

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Keywords: acupuncture, effectiveness of acupuncture, acupuncture treatment, needle, blood pressure

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