During your first visit I will need to gain a thorough understanding of your main complaint and your general health and lifestyle. This involves asking questions about your current symptoms and your medical history, as well as such things as you sleeping pattern, your appetite and digestion, and your emotional wellbeing. Women are also asked about their menstrual cycle and any past pregnancies and childbirth.
You might feel that some questions appear unrelated to your condition but the information you give will help me to form a more complete picture of your health and lifestyle. I will also take your pulse on both wrists and may examine your tongue and feel for areas of muscular tension or pain.
When talking about your main complaint, I might ask you to describe in your own words what the symptoms feel like and how severe they are. I will also need to know how long you have been having the symptoms, whether they are constant or intermittent and how frequent they are. You should let me know about any medication that you are taking and whether you have tried any other therapies.
Based on all the information you have given, I will make a diagnosis and put together your treatment plan, which may include lifestyle and dietary advice as well as acupuncture.
All acupuncturists use very fine single-use pre-sterilised needles to stimulate specific acupuncture points on your body. Because energy meridians range across the whole body, the points used are not necessarily close to where you experience pain or discomfort. For example, if you suffer from headaches needles might be inserted in your foot or hand.
One of the most common concerns about acupuncture relates to needles. One of my most recent patients, Sara, was almost phobic about needles and this was certainly her primary concern. This is what she said after her first treatment:
"I was really scared about the needles and very tense. Gail was great at reassuring me and made me feel very relaxed. I couldn't believe how fine the needles were - and it didn't hurt at all to have them inserted. It was such a relief!"
Most people find acupuncture relaxing and often feel very calm after a treatment. You may feel a little tired or sleepy and should take this into account if you are planning to drive or use heavy machinery straight after your treatment.
You should refrain from vigorous exercise after treatment and, ideally, give yourself a little time to rest. It is also advisable not to drink alcohol for several hours after treatment.
Acupuncture has very few side effects and any that do occur are usually mild and self-correcting. Cupping and guasha can sometimes temporarily mark the skin. Such bruising is painless and generally clears within a day or two.