On your first visit to an acupuncturist, you will probably be asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding your health history and lifestyle habits. You might be asked to describe any digestive problems, sensitivity to temperature, urine color, eating and sleeping patterns, and stress. After reviewing this information with you, the acupuncturist will decide upon the most appropriate treatment. He or she will dab some rubbing alcohol on each point where the needle -- as fine as a strand of hair -- will be inserted. The number of needles and their length, as well as the depth they are inserted vary depending upon the practitioners assessment of your condition. Generally, 10 to 12 needles about two inches long are inserted about one inch into the acupuncture points.
While many people say they barely feel anything, some describe a slight tingling or a sensation resembling a mild electric shock. Others have reported a vague tugging or aching feeling that usually lasts no longer than a few minutes. A sense of fullness and heaviness in the muscles or limbs is also common. There may be minor bleeding from the needle prick.
The needles are usually left in place between 15 and 60 minutes, and the acupuncturist may twirl them to enhance stimulation of the acupuncture points. In some instances, needles may be connected to a low-voltage electrical source. Heat and massage are occasionally applied to pressure points too.