12 Things to Know before 1st Acupuncture Treatment

You heard great things about acupuncture. You research a lot about it. You finally decide to give it a try. Before you really get the needles in, you might still wonder how it is like to have your first acupuncture appointment. 

This blog will cover 4 phases of your first acupuncture treatment. It will give you good information and lead you to a great first encounter with acupuncture. 


checklist for before acupuncture treatment

Before heading into the clinic

You will fare better if you do the following 4 steps, before you set foot into an acupuncture clinic or traditional Chinese medicine clinic.  

  • Find a certified acupuncturist

No matter where you are, most of the countries have their own acupuncture certification. Finding an acupuncturist who goes through official training, test, and certificated process is a way to protect yourself. 

If you are in the US, you can visit NCCAOM

If you are in other countries, do some research. A 10 minute spend on Google will definitely give you peace of mind of seeing a licensed practitioner. 

After you pinpoint down a certified acupuncturist, you can look into their website or inquiry whether they accept insurance, FSA, or HSA, etc. A quick phone call or glance at the website could avoid out of pocket expenses. 

  • Check with your insurance coverage 

Many insurance policies cover acupuncture treatments. Look at your coverage. Give your insurer a phone call. Some policies will cover 12 treatments. Find out your own rights.

  • Eat 2 hours before your appointment 

The rule of thumb is not going into a treatment with an empty stomach or a full belly. Using massage as an analogy might help to explain. 

It is not recommended to have a massage right after a meal. Because your blood goes to the stomach and intestine for the digestive process, massage directs blood away from the stomach and intestine. It is not the best for the body to function. 

 On the other hand, you would need enough energy to avoid possible lightheadedness or dizziness. 

Thus, the rule of thumb is to eat about 2 hours before your treatment. You are at the not too full and not too hungry goldilocks situation.  

  • Dress loosely fit clothing 

One of the frequently asked questions before the first acupuncture treatment is what to wear. The general rule of thumb is to wear loosely fit clothing, so your acupuncturist can access your arms and legs. 

You might wonder what if my lower back is in pain. Acupuncture is not necessary for putting needles on where your pain is. 

This is my experience. I saw acupuncture to relieve my shoulder and upper back pain. Two acupuncturists in two different continents chose points on my hand, foot, and head. 

Both acupuncturists effectively worked away my pain. No one needles went in my shoulder and back.

If you want more details of what you should wear, please check out this blog.


before acupuncture treatment

Before the treatment 

  • Intensive interview process

As this is the first time you see your acupuncturist, you would most likely experience an intensive and 60 minutes plus interview (intake) process. 

Be prepared to answer a wide variety of health related questions. How is your sleep? Any dietary issues?  If you are female, it is also likely you will be asked about menstrual period. 

You might wonder why an acupuncturist will ask questions that seem irrelevant to your current illness. 

Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine usually does not just treat the symptom itself. The philosophy is to find the root cause and help the patients to regain balance. 

Thus, your acupuncturist would need to know the overall health condition before everything else. 

  • Check your pulse and tongue 

Your acupuncturist will also check pulse from both of your wrists. Left and right hand pulses give different details of your health. So be patient with your acupuncturist to check your two wrists. 

Observing tongue is also a way to tell your health condition in traditional Chinese medicine practice. The color, moiseness, and coating all gives information about your health. 

You don’t need to “brush” your tongue before visiting your acupuncturist. Just be normal. Give your acupuncturist authentic information will help them diagnose your situation better. 


During acupuncture treatment


During the treatment

  • You will not feel the needles, mostly

If you are thinking about the needle that you get an injection, that’s not the needle acupuncturist uses. The hypodermic needle is about 1.6 mm. The acupuncture needle is about 0.25 mm. 

The acupuncture needle is not hollow. It is sterile and one time used.  

You most likely do not feel the needle poking into your skin. Occasionally you might feel a sensation. Yet, it is unlikely to feel painful or unbearable. 

  • You feel peacefully, mostly

The general rule of thumb is the needles will stay in for at least 30 minutes. Thus, after putting needles into the points, you will enjoy a period of peace and quiet. 

Some people feel it is like medication. Some people also call this period of time an acu nap. When I visited a community acupuncture clinic, I did see some patients fell asleep during the treatment.   

For some people, they might experience different sensations, such as heat, in their body. It is natural your body feels these sensations. 

In case you feel the sensations are unbearable, don’t wait. Let you acupuncturist know and they would explain and adjust. 


After acupuncture treatment

After the treatment

  • Provide feedback to your acupuncturist

Congratulations! You just did your first acupuncture! This is the time for you and your acupuncturist to have a conversation about how you feel. 

Don’t hold back. If you have questions or you feel sensations in different parts of your body, tell your acupuncturist. 

Communication is the best way to build trust and commitment for a full recovery and healthy life. 

  • You might get a herbal treatment

Depending what you are seeking help with, your acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner might suggest herbal treatment to help you heal. 

Ask any questions you have in mind. How often should you take it? For how long? 

Get the clarity you need to help you get on your healing process. 

  • Schedule next appointment

You would most likely need more than one acupuncture treatment to achieve your health goal. Don’t stop at the first treatment. Schedule your next appointment to solidify the results and benefits. 


  • Feel improved even a few days later 

It is quite common that you feel your condition keep improving a few days after the acupuncture treatment. It is your body picking up and healing. 

It is also possible that you might feel different types of sensation in your body. Remember how you feel. Discuss your condition with your acupuncturist at the next appointment. 

I hope you get all the information needed and feel confident about your first acupuncture treatment. 

To better health!