The do's & don'ts to help you get the most out of your first session
So you’ve found a great acupuncturist. Now what?
Acupuncture can be a little intimidating for a newcomer. We get it. For those with needle phobias: Please don’t let that be a reason to miss out on all the benefits that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can offer. It’s important to keep in mind that acupuncture needles are much finer than hypodermic needles used for shots, and acupuncturists are never injecting, nor extracting anything from you, so the sensation is much different than that of a shot. Many we treat here in our Houston acupuncture clinic are pleasantly surprised by how little they feel the needles upon insertion.
So now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about how to make the most out of your treatments. Preparation is key, and these eight tips will have you walking more confidently into your first session.
Some general rules of thumb:
1. Eat a light meal or snack 1-2 hours before your treatment.
You don’t want to show up too full, however, it’s important to have something in your stomach. Ideally, skip the heavy, fried or greasy foods and go for something lighter. While the main concern with not eating beforehand is feeling the distraction of hunger during your session, some may experience lightheadedness or physical depletion. Here at our acupuncture clinic in Houston, we’re always stocked with healthy snacks, so let us know if you need a quick bite before your treatment!
2. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
Not only do we want you to feel as relaxed as possible, but looser clothing helps us to access the points we may need to use during your session. It can also be beneficial for us as acupuncturists if you wear minimal to no jewelry.
3. Get your workout in early.
Some exercise post-treatment is perfectly fine, like taking a light walk or doing restorative yoga. However, try and get the cardio or strength training in before you come in for acupuncture. While many feel energized after awakening from their “acu-naps,” some people experience greater fatigue after a first session. We always recommend that patients honor their bodies and rest if they need to rest; don’t try to push through it, as deeper healing is occurring when you rest.
4. Schedule accordingly.
Not only should you plan you keep your day fairly light after your first acupuncture treatment, just in case, but also try and avoid “sandwiching” your appointment between other events. You don’t want to feel rushed making it to your appointment in time, nor do you want to have anything scheduled directly after your session, as this can sometimes make it more difficult to relax.
5. Fill out all your forms prior to your first appointment.
If you’re visiting us here in Houston, our acupuncture clinic is predominantly paperless. Please fill out all of your forms online in our patient portal prior to your appointment, so that we have all of the information we need – including a list of your current medications, supplements and herbs – so we can ensure there are no herb-drug interactions, if you opt to use herbal medicine in conjunction with acupuncture. Also, please be honest when filling out your forms. The answers you provide truly do make a difference in how your acupuncturist will assess and treat your condition.
6. Don’t drink coffee or tea before your treatment.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we use various “tools” for determining what’s going on inside the body. Checking your “pulses” as well as reading your tongue are two diagnostic methods that we utilize. We realize Houston is plentiful when it comes to great coffee or tea shops, but try not to visit one just before your appointment. When you consume coffee or tea beforehand, this can leave a yellow coating on your tongue, which can sometimes be misleading for us when forming a diagnosis (please also refrain from overbrushing your tongue).
On another note, consuming a stimulant (like coffee or some teas) prior to your session can increase sympathetic nerve activity (A.K.A: your fight-or-flight response). This works against our goals of helping your body to enter a parasympathetic (or, rest-and-digest) state.
7. Turn off your cell phone.
Look, we’re connected to our cell phones just as much as any person these days, so we understand that the struggle is real when it comes time to setting your phone aside. But we highly encourage you to do so, and to put it on silent (not vibrate), so you don’t get distracted during your treatment. This is your time. Enjoy it.
8. Arrive with an open heart.
Though it’s been practiced for several centuries, acupuncture is still very new for many Westerners. We recommend entering your treatment with an open heart and an open mind. There may be terms used that are not familiar to you, and we certainly take a different approach to treating the body than you may be used to if you’ve grown up in the US, but please feel free to ask questions! We encourage you to stay open to a new perspective, as this mindset also benefits us on a deeper, physiological level; when our minds are more open, our bodies naturally follow suit, leading to more relaxed muscles, vasodilation (which helps to increase circulation), and ultimately, a more productive acupuncture session!
After Your Session:
So you've just awakened from acu-bliss...what's next?
As we mentioned above, while many feel energized after a session, some people (especially those who are over-worked or highly-stressed) may feel exhausted after a session. We encourage you to carve out time in your schedule for post-acupuncture rest, just in case. Our bodies know what to do – it’s simply up to us to provide them with what they need (and let’s be honest, most of us need sleep and more vegetables!). Even if you aren’t tired, it’s best not to do anything too strenuous the day of acupuncture.
It’s also a good idea to tune into your body and take note of the subtle shifts over the next couple of days. Maybe you’re sleeping more deeply? Or perhaps your acid reflux has settled down. Are your dreams more vivid or bizarre? How about your energy levels, or changes in your stool? If your acupuncturist was working on pain, you definitely want to monitor any changes in the severity by notating the level on a pain scale of 1-10, or jotting down a percentage of improvement.
If you received cupping during your session, refrain from showering or swimming for 2-3 hours afterwards.
And finally, take your acupuncturist’s treatment plan seriously. For many conditions, consistent treatments in the beginning makes all the difference. We didn’t create our habits and patterns overnight, and we typically can’t reverse them overnight either. Holistic practices, like acupuncture, take a little more time, however, the benefits can be sustaining when you make the choice to honor your body and lean into the process (and journey) of healing.
If you're ready to heal and in need of some assistance along the way, we'd love to help! Here at Nguyen Wellness + Recovery in Houston, Texas, we specialize in treating chronic pain, neuropathy, migraines and more! If you're interested in trying acupuncture or cupping, call us with any questions you may have, or book a session online today!