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.

Typically, acupuncturists say that patients need between 6 and 12 sessions of acupuncture to get the most from the treatment, but this varies depending on the acupuncturist and the patient.

Assessment and examination

The acupuncturist will ask you about your general health and your medical history. If your visit is due to 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 acupuncturist may do a physical examination.

Insertion of the needles

Once the acupuncturist feels they have a clear picture of your health, they will move to 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 that the acupuncturist can access the relevant places on your body.

The needles used are fine and are usually around 30mm long. They should be single-use, pre-sterilised needles, which are disposed of immediately after use.

Acupuncturists believe that there are over 500 acupuncture points on the body. In a session, typically between 1 and 12 points will be used. The needles may be inserted just under the skin or deeper so that they reach muscle tissue. Once the needles are in place, they may be left in position for up to 30 minutes.

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

Page last reviewed: 22/05/2012

Next review due: 22/05/2014

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