What Is An Acupuncture Session Like, Does It Hurt, And How Many Sessions Might I Need?

Tony Chon, M.D., Mayo

Question: What is an acupuncture session like, does it hurt, and how many sessions might I need?

Answer: During the initial office visit, the acupuncture practitioner will want to take a complete history and perform a physical examination. This is to obtain a complete picture of your treatment needs.

Now, many people are surprised to find acupuncture needles are associated with minimal discomfort. Some people feel no pain at all. This is because acupuncture needles are thin, flexible and tapered at the tip, designed to slide smoothly into the skin.

After the insertion of needles, the needles may be stimulated using different forms of methods. A manual stimulation will require acupuncture needles to be twisted back and forth, up and down, in a gentle manner.

Heat can also be used to stimulate the acupuncture needles. Heat may be in the form of moxibustion, which is an herb that is burned near the needle point. A low frequency electrical energy may also be used in the form of an electrostimulator box.

The patient may experience benefit within the first three treatments. Some may actually experience benefit after the first treatment. Each session may last 30 minutes to an hour, with the needles being retained for 15 minutes or so.

Depending on the condition being treated, duration of sessions may be from two to six sessions. Sometimes the patient may have to return for maintenance therapies down the road to ensure long-term benefit.

The number of needles varies with the condition being treated. Some may require less than six needles; some may require more than thirty needles per treatment.

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