Here is the latest in the occasional series, Acupuncture Tales From The Treatment Couch. We discuss what will happen during that crucial first acupuncture session? What should I expect to happen on the treatment couch?
For what must be an unfamiliar situation for some, here is a typical scenario. It is based on a patient with tennis elbow, a painful condition of the elbow which can cause loss of grip, and an inability to perform everyd
ay tasks such as opening drawers and pouring tea.
During the initial consultation with your acupuncturist you will be asked lots of questions about your problem. How did it start, when did it start, how does it feel, what does the condition prevent you from doing? It is also helpful for the practitioner to know what makes the condition better and what makes it worse. Did you try applying heat, is the soreness better or worse for rubbing? The answers to these will help to formulate the most effective acupuncture treatment strategy for you.
Following this you will be asked questions about your general health and lifestyle. What do you do for a living, do you open your bowels every day, are you a hot person? Such questions can help to pinpoint any underlying factors. For example if you tend towards poor circulation in your hands, you may be more prone to arm muscle strain in cold weather. In this case careful application of heat may be of great benefit as part of your treatment.
Phyical assessment of the injury may involve testing specific movements of your affected arm, and pressing for tender points. These tests are important in establishing a baseline before treatment starts.
So what about treatment itself? This may involve the insertion of hair-fine needles, the application of moxa herb to warm the tissues, massage and other acupuncture related techniques. Electrical stimulation may also be used to enhance the overall effect.
At stages during treatment, tender areas may be pressed again and any lessening of sensitivity noted. Range of movement may be similarly retested. Any improvement is an encouraging factor, though recovery is not always apparent straight away (especially during the first session or two).
And finally a word about expectations. I often remark that acupuncture treatment is like building a house – you lay the foundations first and then apply the bricks course by course. The casual bystander may not notice any sign of the housebuilding until the first few courses have been laid. Don’t be afraid to ask your practitioner how things are progressing.