Acupuncture - What happens 

How acupuncture is performed 

Typically, an initial acupuncture session will involve an assessment of general health, a medical history and a physical examination, followed by insertion of the acupuncture needles.

Most acupuncture sessions last between 20 and 40 minutes.

Courses of treatment often involve up to 10 separate sessions, but this can vary.

Assessment and examination

The acupuncture practitioner will first ask you about your general health and your medical history.

If your visit is because of a specific health condition, they will ask about the symptoms of this condition and about any other treatment you have received for it.

After this, the acupuncture practitioner may carry out a physical examination.

Insertion of the needles

After taking an appropriate medical history, the acupuncture practitioner will begin the insertion of the acupuncture needles. These needles are inserted into specific places on the body, which practitioners call acupuncture points.

During the session, you will usually be asked to sit or lie down. You may also be asked to remove some clothes so the practitioner can access the relevant parts of your body.

The needles used are fine and are usually a few centimetres long. They should be single-use, pre-sterilised needles that are disposed of immediately after use.

Acupuncture practitioners choose specific points to place the needles based on your condition. From 1 to 12 points will typically be used during a session, and sometimes more depending on the number of symptoms you have.

The needles may be inserted just under the skin, or deeper so they reach muscle tissue. Once the needles are in place, they may be left in position for a length of time lasting from a few minutes up to around 30 minutes.

You may feel a tingling or a dull ache when the needles are inserted. You should not experience any significant pain. If you do, let your practitioner know straight away.

In some cases, your practitioner may rotate the needles or stimulate them with a mild electric current (known as electroacupuncture).

Page last reviewed: 15/07/2014

Next review due: 15/07/2016

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