3 Things to Expect at Your First Acupuncture Session

What do all those tiny needles *actually* feel like?

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If you’ve never tried acupuncture before, the sight of all those tiny needles poking out from the skin might unnerve you. However, people who use acupuncture regularly tend to rave about it, telling you that the sessions are “soothing” or “relaxing.” Clearly, there’s more to acupuncture than meets the eye.

People turn to acupuncture for a number of reasons, but studies show it can be effective against chronic pain (such as back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis pain) and can help reduce the pain and frequency of migraines and headaches, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

So if you’re ready to trust these acupuncture enthusiasts and give it a shot, what can you actually expect at your first appointment? Here are three things that might make your acupuncture session a bit less intimidating:

1. Your appointment will start with an exam.

Acupuncture is not like getting a manicure or haircut: You don’t just sit down and “get started.” Remember, acupuncture is a technique of traditional Chinese medicine, and because of this, your health is a priority from the get-go.

You will talk about what’s been bothering you and why you’re turning to acupuncture. Your acupuncturist will gather your health history and do a physical exam to inspect your health needs and identify any concerns. Part of the exam will include checking your pulse, as well as the shape and color of your tongue. (In traditional Chinese medicine, a “tongue diagnosis” is considered a window to your overall health.)

2. Acupuncture shouldn’t hurt.

Surprisingly, acupuncture needles cause little to no discomfort. After swabbing your skin with alcohol, the acupuncturist will strategically insert the thin and sterile needles to stimulate points (called “acupoints”) on the body.

Some spots may be more sensitive than others, but in general, it’s pretty painless. If you *do* feel pain, tell your acupuncturist. They can adjust the needles for your comfort.

3. You’ll “wear” the needles for up to 30 minutes.

Once the needles have been placed, you’ll retain them for as short as 5 minutes, or up to half an hour. Once again, you might be surprised to hear that many people describe this time as relaxing. Who knew lounging around with needles could be so meditative?

Speaking of relaxation, plan to take it easy after your appointment. Some people feel slightly woozy after their acupuncture session, so plan accordingly.

Even if have a bit of a needle phobia, you might find it worth your while to take a poke at acupuncture.