This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
On your first visit to an acupuncturist, the practitioner will take a thorough medical history, then may three pulses on each wrist, examine your tongue, take note of how your breath and body smell, and "palpate" (or feel) certain areas of your body. Depending on your ailment, you may also have your first acupuncture treatment at this time. In general, visits occur once or twice a week over several months until therapeutic results are achieved.
While the needles can feel uncomfortable at times, they rarely hurt. They are very thin (only about three times the thickness of a human hair and much finer than the hypodermic needles used to give injections) and are designed to enter the skin with little resistance. Once the needles are inserted (generally from one to 15 are used), the acupuncturist may twist them manually or send a weak electrical current through them to increase the energy flow. The needles may be left in for 15 to 40 minutes, depending on the ailment. Some practitioners also use moxibustion, which involves burning herbs (primarily the dried herb mugwort), near acupoints, to hasten healing.
Different people experience different sensations from acupuncture. Some describe a tingling pins-and-needles feeling, others may feel numbness or nothing at all. Most find the sessions relaxing, and many fall asleep during or immediately after treatment.
Some patients notice rapid improvement after just a few sessions. In those whose conditions have taken years to develop, treatment may take longer.