If you’ve ever had acupuncture, chances are you remember your first time. My first visit to an acupuncturist was out of desperation. I had a nagging muscle pull that refused to heal, and I was supposed to go on a backpacking trip in about two weeks.
What I remember most clearly about that first visit was my concern over the cleanliness of the needles. This was about 15 years ago, and acupuncture felt foreign and risky to me. It’s interesting that 15 years later, some of my patients will still ask about the cleanliness of the needles at their first visit. My standard answer is that the needles are sterile, and after they are used once, they are disposed of in the sharps container. In Minnesota it’s a law that they are not cleaned and reused. (Although in some states, it is legal to sterilize the needles in an autoclave and use them again.)
During my first acupuncture treatment, I don’t remember being concerned about whether it would hurt or not. However, the pain factor is one of the most frequent questions I get from new patients. I tell them that nobody has ever left my practice because they thought it was too painful. I then show them a needle and offer to let them try one. Almost every time, when I insert that first trial needle, my patient will say, “That’s it?”, and their fears are put to rest. In fact, some are so geared up that they’re almost disappointed by the lack of pain.
Other people want to know how many treatments it will take to resolve their health condition. This is a hard question to answer for a number of reasons. First, everyone is different and heals at a different rate. Also, people who are healthier tend to heal faster.
Another factor that can affect the number of treatments needed is how much a patient is willing to do to care for themselves at home. Often, there are a number of dietary and lifestyle changes that can be incorporated into a treatment to speed up the healing process.
There is also the surprise factor. I have treated many patients who I have thought would need a number of treatments become symptom-free in just a treatment or two. The bottom line is that everyone is unique and will heal at their own pace.
As for my first time, I was surprised that in a matter of two weeks, the pain that drove me to try acupuncture was gone. It could work that way for you, too.