You have read about how to book your appointment with me.
You have read about what to expect during your appointment.
But what about after your appointment? What happens after an acupuncture appointment? Is there anything that you should know before you leave the office?
Absolutely. In my experience as an acupuncturist, what happens outside of the treatment space is more important than what happens inside of it. The same is true for any practitioner. Your doctor’s appointment won’t help you get over your ear infection if you don’t take your antibiotics. Your massage therapy appointment won’t be effective for more than a week if you don’t follow your practitioner’s advice.
After-care and homework are a vital part of any treatment plan. So here are six pieces of advice to help you get the most from your acupuncture treatment.
1) Book your next appointment
Acupuncture is not a “one and done” treatment. For something acute like a back spasm, you may not need to come back. But if you are coming in for chronic or recurring issues like headaches, menstrual difficulties or fertility treatments, your practitioner will develop a treatment plan with you. A treatment plan will be a series of treatments over the course of a few weeks that build on each other and on your home treatments.
So before you leave the office make sure you know when your next appointment is going to be and book it before you leave.
Did you forget to book your appointment before leaving clinic?
2) Take it easy
It’s important not to push yourself too hard following an acupuncture appointment. Acupuncture is very relaxing, and many people fall asleep while on a treatment table or in a chair. It’s normal to feel very serene while leaving the office. But because of the feeling, it can be easy to miss how much work your body did while on the table. Like craniosacral, acupuncture is deceptively deep work.
Some important cautions are to pay attention to your energy level. If you find yourself feeling more tired than usual, make sure to tell your practitioner at the next visit. There is a big difference between feeling relaxed and feeling tired. Relaxation is the sign of a good treatment. Fatigue or “being out of it” may be a sign of too much work, and your practitioner may need to reduce the strength of your next treatment.
3) Wait to take a shower or bath
Wait an hour or two before taking a shower and allow the needle insertions to close. Acupuncture needles are designed to be so small that they are able to push cells out of the way, as opposed to tearing tissue like a hypodermic needle. This is why why there is rarely any bleeding when needles are removed. But giving the insertion sites time to close back up will reduce any potential irritation.
4) Eat a hearty and healthy meal
Acupuncture can lower blood sugar, which is why it is important to eat a meal before going in for a treatment. Reward your body for all the work it did to heal itself with a good, healthy meal.
5) Hold off on sex
Waiting 24 hours before having sex is a traditional recommendation. Sex moves qi and blood, and your body is just figuring out the new balance from your treatment. Even for fertility treatments, waiting until your body has adjusted is a good idea.
6) Do your homework
Many practitioners give homework – diet changes, breathing exercises, meditations and more. This homework is an important part of your treatment for a couple of reasons. The first is that it can stretch out the time between appointments saving you time and money.
In China and Japan, it’s easy to see your practitioner frequently and many people get daily appointments. But that’s very difficult in the West. Our schedules are already packed tight with responsibilities at work and at home, and even though community acupuncture is designed to be affordable costs add up.
Doing your homework allows you to build on your treatment at home with lighter doses to make sure that you don’t move backwards in your treatment plan.
The second reason homework is important is that it gives you more agency in your treatment plan. Being involved in your treatment means you’ll be more likely to get better faster.
So, now you know
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine is growing in popularity but it’s still very different from the care many of us are used to. Everything from booking a community acupuncture appointment to follow-up takes a mindset shift. But now, here you are. You know how to book your appointment, you know what to expect and you know how to make sure your treatment works for you.
Armed with this information, you can visit your practitioner knowing that you’ll get the most out of your treatment plan.
Disclaimer: I am an acupuncturist in the state of Minnesota, and the information falls within my scope of practice in my state. However, unless I have directed you here as your homework I am probably not your acupuncturist. The information in this post is for general purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As always, check with your own acupuncturist or primary care provider before making any lifestyle changes. This post does not create a patient-practitioner relationship and I am not liable for any losses or damages resulting or relating to the content in this post.
Resources and links
Jessica Gustafson is a licensed acupuncturist in St Paul, MN specializing in women’s health and fertility. She loves working with patients through the Health Foundations Birth Center on Grand Avenue in St Paul, the Naturally Well clinic in White Bear Lake, and doing home visits in the Twin Cities area. Check out the services page for more information!
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