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General Internal Medicine

department of medicine

Section of general internal medicine

Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture


Q: How many treatments will I need?
A: Following the initial consultation, you will ideally be seen every week for 4-8 visits. As your condition improves, treatments may be extended to every other week, every three weeks, monthly and perhaps even longer. The number of treatments varies with each person. Generally, chronic conditions require more sessions, and acute problems require as few as two to four visits. Health maintenance visits may only be four times a year.


Q: What do acupuncture needles feel like?
A: Acupuncture needles are metallic, hair-thin and have a smooth, rounded point. People experience acupuncture differently, but most patients feel no or minimal discomfort as the needles are inserted. Once the needles are in place, there may be a warm or dull, achy sensation.


Q: Is acupuncture safe?
A: Acupuncture is very safe. Needles are sterile, single-use and disposable. Because the point is smooth, solid and not hollow, infections are infrequent. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is minimal. More serious reactions are extremely rare when executed by a qualified provider, especially considering the millions of acupuncture treatments performed yearly.


Q: Are there any side effects to the treatment?
A: Usually not. As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated, and healing begins to take place. Occasionally, the original symptoms may worsen for a day or two before an overall improvement in the condition appears. Other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may be temporarily triggered. These should not cause concern, as they are simply signs that the acupuncture is starting to work. It is common with the first few treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These pass within a short time, and only require a bit of rest to overcome.


Q: Are there any "do's and don'ts" on the day of the treatment?
A: Yes. To enhance the value of a treatment, the following guidelines are important:

  • Do not eat a large meal immediately before or after your treatment.
  • Do not over-exercise, engage in sexual activity, or consume alcohol within 6 hours before or after the treatment.
  • Plan your activities so that after the treatment you can get some rest, or at least not have to be working at top performance. This is especially important for the first few visits.
  • Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor. Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) especially in the week prior to treatment, will seriously interfere with the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments.
  • Remember to keep good mental or written notes of your response to the treatments. This information will help tailor your future treatments.

Source: The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture