The first consultation will usually take from 40 minutes to an hour depending on your condition. Follow up visits are shorter (15-45 minutes on average). The practitioner will take a detailed case history (including your medical case history & GP contact details) and may ask you questions that appear irrelevant to your condition such as social habits, family history, diet, your emotional status etc. If you are uncomfortable with any question then ask the practitioner its relevance. Remember that the practitioner does not see you as somebody with a particular named condition, he/she sees you as a person who has this particular imbalance which requires a holistic approach, hence the need for probing questions which may not be of a medical nature at all. In fact, two patients with the same Western condition (e.g. migraine) may be treated differently by the practitioner as he/she is treating two completely different individuals who happen to have the same Western condition.
In fact, many people derive a therapeutic benefit from just being able to talk to somebody about their condition, remember however, an Acupuncturist is not a trained Mental Health Professional and should not be used as a substitute for counselling! If you feel that you require counselling for any aspect of your life it is probably better to talk it over with your GP first and he/she can then instigate the appropriate referral.
Having taken the detailed case history mentioned above, the practitioner may take your blood pressure, look at your tongue and spend time taking your pulses. Having arrived at a diagnosis and treatment protocol, the practitioner will try to outline this to you. If there is anything you do not understand then ask questions. The practitioner will outline where needles are to be inserted and for how long. He/she may also use moxibustion and cupping techniques. Dietary advice may also be offered.
The practitioner will then ask you to undress to the level necessary for the insertion of the needles, points on the limbs are most commonly used. If your condition is of a musculoskeletal nature (e.g. back pain, muscle strain, tendinitis etc.), the practitioner may use a small battery-powered TENS machine attached to the needles. If you are in any doubt at any time as to what is going on then ask the practitioner, there is a very good reason why needles are being inserted into your feet when your problem is a headache!