1) Fill out intake forms. Completely.
Although some of the questions may seem unrelated to your condition, these details allow the practitioner to create your customized treatment plan based on overall constitution, health history, and current symptoms. This can be frustrating for some folks. Did that car accident happen in ’86 or ’87? Don’t worry. As a practitioner, I am less concerned with figuring out which of those two years it actually happened and more concerned that it did happen and how it affected your health. Is that the year your migraines started? Bingo. Now we’re getting somewhere.
There are a couple of sections on the intake form that I would consider critical. Make sure to list any prescription medications, vitamins and/or herbal medications, significant medical history (such as low blood sugar, hepatitis, or seizures), and allergies – including to foods. Not knowing you are allergic to cats during the treatment probably won’t ruin your day. Not knowing you are allergic to shellfish when I prescribe certain Chinese herbs will.
2) Eat a light snack one to two hours before your appointment.
Ideally, you don’t want to be too hungry or too full.
3) Skip brushing/scraping your tongue before your appointment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners observe the tongue coating to determine the condition of the Stomach, whether your pattern is Excess or Deficient, Hot or Cold, and to evaluate the level of body fluids.
4) Show up on time.
In my office, the treatment time is reserved especially for that patient. In order to honor the treatment time for each of my patients, late arrivals may have their treatment time reduced by the amount of time they are late.
What part of the treatment gets cut when a treatment time is shortened? It depends. But if I need to give you 20-30 minutes with the needles, there may not be time for bodywork. I don’t know about you but if someone is going to work the kinks out of my back, I want to be there for that.
5) Silence your cell phone.
This is your time to relax and rejuvenate. Nothing ruins a quiet nap or brief meditation faster than your Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” ringtone. All joking aside, research has shown that constant multi-tasking actually makes you more unproductive AND unhappier. (Click here to check out the research by Stanford University professor Clifford Nass and here for Boston University’s research on how mindfulness affects anxiety and depression).
6) Follow-up with your practitioner.
Be sure to tell your practitioner how you felt after your last session and report any changes or new symptoms so that the treatment can be adjusted accordingly.
7) Schedule and keep regular appointments.
This is especially important if you are dealing with a chronic condition. You may feel some benefit after the first treatment but don’t stop there or your problem will likely return. Acupuncture has a cumulative effect. Several appointments scheduled at regular intervals can help you achieve more progress than sporadic appointments scheduled only when symptoms are at their worst.
8 ) Take herbal and/or nutritional supplements EXACTLY as prescribed.
Two key points here – Dosage is important. And more is not always better. Your practitioner has selected a specific dosing schedule to minimize interactions with other medications and/or herbs and to maximize the benefit. Follow the dosing schedule and report any concerns to your practitioner immediately.
And don’t forget tip #1. Inform your practitioner of any and all substances to which you have had allergic reactions. And be sure to let your practitioner know if you are pregnant because some herbs are inappropriate during pregnancy.
9) Practice the lifestyle recommendations.
During the course of your treatments, your practitioner may recommend adjustments to your diet, exercise routine, or even provide you with meditation techniques. Do your best to incorporate some (or all) of these suggestions into your life. Give your practitioner feedback on which ones worked and which ones didn’t.
All of these tips require a level of commitment and involvement on the part of the patient. But for me, the last tip is where the patient really becomes empowered to take charge of their health and happiness. It is all of the little things we do day in and day out to honor our health and well-being that allow us to lead the life we choose.
Best health to you!
*To read more from Diane check out her blog Health Focus Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine