What can I expect at my first acupuncture session?

So, you’ve finally decided to get acupuncture for that nagging pain you’ve been experiencing. You’ve heard lots of different stories from others who have gone through with the treatment. Some have had amazing results and some have not. Nonetheless, you figure it’s worth a shot to see if it can help with your pain. You’re probably wondering what to expect for your first session. Well, look no further because today we’ll go through what your first acupuncture session will look like, and what you can do to make it go as smoothly as possible.

What should I do to prepare for my first acupuncture session?

Coming prepared for your acupuncture sessions is very important to make sure everything goes well, especially for your first time. The first and most important thing to consider is your food and water intake. Make sure you’ve eaten something substantial and had lots of water to drink before getting acupuncture done. Acupuncture can often make people feel faint or lightheaded, which can be even worse if you have not had anything to eat or drink beforehand. That being said, it’s also a good idea to give yourself some time to digest before going in for acupuncture. Ideally, eat something about an hour before that’s not too heavy or too light.

Next, you’ll want to come in clothing that allows the area that will be treated to be easily accessible for your therapist. If you’re planning on getting your neck and shoulders done, it’s a good idea to wear a tank top or something that exposes your shoulders and the back of your neck. If you’re going in for a knee injury, wearing shorts (even underneath pants) is prudent.

What can I expect at my first acupuncture session?

When you visit a physiotherapist for acupuncture, they will need to perform a full physiotherapy assessment of you first. This will include both subjective and objective assessments. The subjective assessment will involve lots of questions and a detailed history of your current condition and goals. The objective assessment will involve lots of different movements to allow your physiotherapist to get an idea of what your physical condition is. Once the assessment is complete, your physiotherapist will discuss their clinical findings with you and how acupuncture may help. As discussed in our previous post, acupuncture is mainly beneficial for pain relief. Next, your therapist will discuss the potential risks of acupuncture. The most common risks include increased pain and bruising.

Your physiotherapist must also rule out any contraindications you may have to acupuncture. If you’re currently pregnant or trying to get pregnant, or if you have any bleeding conditions or disorders, your physiotherapist may choose not to perform acupuncture or to only perform certain points. Finally, your therapist will ask if you’ve had adverse reactions to needles or acupuncture before. If you answer yes, your therapist may request that you lie down for acupuncture, as that will reduce the likelihood of fainting.

Once you’ve gone through all of the prerequisites listed above, your therapist will have you position yourself comfortably to expose the area to be treated. If you haven’t got clothing that reveals the area, your physiotherapist may have you change into a gown. Your therapist will then get an alcohol swab to clean the area prior to inserting single use, sanitized needles. This process is not usually painful as the needles are very thin, but you may feel a slight pinch and/or a dull ache. In some cases acupuncture can be painful, so don’t worry if you feel a sharp pain. You can always ask your therapist to adjust or remove a needle! The acupuncture needles will stay in for anywhere from five to twenty minutes (sometimes even longer), and it’s very important that you don’t move during that time. Once the time is up, your therapist will remove the needles and dispose of them in a “sharps” container. You will also feel them apply pressure to the treated area to stop any bleeding that may occur. After that you’re good to go, but take your time getting up and leaving the clinic to ensure you’re not dizzy or faint. Be sure to continue to drink lots of water and eat appropriately for the rest of the day! Finally, monitor your symptoms over the next few days to determine what kind of effect you’ve felt from the acupuncture.

Still not sure what to expect at your first acupuncture session? Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on www.strivept.ca to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury. 


Liam Newlands
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance

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