An hour (including consultation and treatment) is standard but the initial consultation may take up to an hour and a half, if the condition warrants it. The actual treatment lasts between 20 and 45 minutes, depending upon the problem being treated. I encourage patients not to schedule so tightly that they are concerned about the time during their appointment.
While some conditions are improved or even resolved with one visit, most conditions will involve multiple visits. On average, with weekly treatment, a condition should show some improvement within 3-5 visits. The patient’s age, general health, lifestyle, how long they’ve had the condition and any previous medical interventions or medications are all possible factors that can influence the degree and speed of recovery. A fairly reliable rule of thumb is, if you’ve had the condition for years, it’ll take months; if you’ve had it for months, it’ll take weeks and if you’ve had it for weeks, it’ll take days.
This varies from person to person. Acupuncture is done with extremely thin, flexible needles made of stainless steel and while one very often doesn’t feel the needle insertion at all, it is possible that you may experience brief discomfort as the needle pierces the skin. What follows is a drawing, tightening or tugging sensation. Further stimulation of the needle may elicit feelings of numbness, heat, dull aching or tingling. More often than not, the experience is painless though it is definitely a tangible experience. Some people are apprehensive during the first treatment because of the unfamiliarity and their previous experiences with much thicker, hypodermic needles. In my experience, this apprehension can create a sense of threat in the patient which amplifies any perceived sense of pain. It appears that one’s response to acupuncture is quite subjective. Many report feeling almost nothing while others find each insertion unpleasant! Any discomfort is generally very short lived.
The treatment mechanism of acupuncture is to trigger the body’s own regulating and healing responses. This is a very active process and consequently it draws on one’s own energy reserves. It is therefore not uncommon to feel tired and even hungry after a session. This will usually lift quite quickly as the body reestablishes equilibrium but if you are tired, rest and if you are hungry, eat! It is for this reason that it’s important that you come to a session well fed and rested. Depending on the problem being treated and your prior condition, you may experience a wide range of sensations. Some patients will experience a burst of energy while others may feel relaxed or even a bit light-headed, many experience a sense of calm and well being. It is my experience that If the body is in a weakened state from prolonged illness or from the ravages of emotional and life stresses, the patient may feel washed out the following day. While not common, this can happen and is not a cause for alarm.
It is best if you wear something comfortable and loose as some points are only easily reached by the adjustment of an item of clothing. It is generally not considered necessary for the patient to undress and I will not unnecessarily expose parts of the body that will not be being needled. However, should an item of clothing need to be removed, appropriate cover will be provided. It is important to note that the use of moxibustion produces a lot of thick and pungent smoke so it’s best to change into a different set of clothing for the treatment. We do occasionally needle through clothing. This should not concern you as it is fairly common practice. We use pre-sterilized, disposable acupuncture needles and after more than 20 years I am yet to see a case of infection at acupuncture points.
Yes, South African Medical aid schemes do now pay for acupuncture though its best to check with your provider. Please note that this is a cash practice so, after making payment, please request a statement that you may then submit for reimbursement.
It is best to notify your practitioner about any other therapies or treatments you are undergoing. Most often, acupuncture will not clash with these though there are instances where it may produce adverse effects. I find it is generally best to adopt the policy of not undergoing more than one form of therapy per day. People often feel that once they leave the therapist’s rooms they are done for the day; in reality, many therapies continue to take effect for hours after the session is over. Receiving further treatment, on top of that can elicit unpleasant reactions and sometimes be taxing on the body.