What To Expect
Please plan to arrive early to your appointment and bring a photo ID and insurance card. We do not directly bill your insurance. Complimentary tea is available upon arrival. Prior to your treatment, you will need to fill out a new patient form so please plan to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment time. Save time and fill out the new patient form here. Just scroll down and download the form.
Treatments will last about an hour and a half for new patients so please plan accordingly. The treatment starts with a consultation and then an acupuncture session. Please read the before and after treatment section on this website prior to your appointment date.
Avoid scheduling acupuncture before or after something really strenuous. You don’t need to be sedentary on either side of an appointment, but nor should you be going nuts at the gym or suffering through an extremely stressful meeting. Also avoid sandwiching—squeezing in acupuncture immediately between two other events—as this has a tendency to make you either late for or stressed out during your treatment.
This is an important one, and it’s something I get asked about a lot. Everyone metabolizes food at different rates, so adjust as you see fit, but a good guideline is to eat about two hours before an acupuncture appointment. You don’t want to show up really full, or after having eaten something heavy, fried or spicy, but do not go for acupuncture on an empty stomach. It can leave you feeling lightheaded or physically depleted. If you’re debating whether it’s too close to your appointment to eat, eat. Better to be a little full than distracted by hunger during your appointment.
Coffee is not your friend
That is not to say that coffee is never your friend, but coffee is not your friend immediately before acupuncture. If you have a morning appointment and can’t go without your morning cup, do what you have to do. But if you’re going for acupuncture later in the day, avoid coffee for at least two hours before.
Coffee is a stimulant. It has been shown to release norepinephrine and epinephrine, which kick your body into fight-or-flight mode. Acupuncture works to shift you away from that sympathetic (fight-or-flight) state and toward a parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) one, so coffee inhibits the process. It also makes it difficult for the acupuncturist to get accurate readings on your pulse and tongue, since coffee increases your heart rate and stains your tongue.
Neither is alcohol
One of acupuncture’s greatest gifts is its ability to help us see more clearly. Not literally, as in improved vision (although it has been known to do that too), but it helps us see situations and our symptoms with more clarity. Alcohol does the opposite. It numbs us, takes the edge off, which during acupuncture is not a good thing. One goal of acupuncture is to bring more awareness to how we feel. Impairing the senses with alcohol is not helpful.
Remember where you’ve been
Before acupuncture, spend some time thinking about—or even making a list, if that helps—any significant medical events in your life. For example, family disease history, car accidents, broken bones, other serious injuries, long-term illnesses, surgeries, etc. Also make note of any medications you are taking currently as well as any that you took long-term in the past (e.g., birth control pills).
We tend to forget these things, or assume they’re irrelevant, but from an acupuncture perspective they help contribute to your overall picture of health. Your acupuncturist will want to hear about them. When in doubt about whether to include something, it’s always better to mention it.
Wear loose clothing
This is so the acupuncturist can easily access the places where he or she wants to place needles. It’s especially important if you’re going for a community acupuncture appointment, because treatments are performed in a group setting with clothes on. However, even for private acupuncture appointments, loose clothing usually makes things easier for you and the practitioner.
Even when we schedule wisely, there is still a tendency to leave at the last minute for appointments. This makes most appointments more stressful than they need to be, but especially with acupuncture, arriving at your appointment amped-up is counter productive. It’s similar to how coffee works against the process of calming the nervous system. When you rush into an appointment, your pulse is higher than normal, your mind is spinning, and you’re tense with worry about the prospect of being late.
Many of us already deal with these qualities during our regular stress-filled days—and they’re often the reasons for coming to acupuncture in the first place—so why make them worse by rushing? Regardless of when your appointment is, put it in your calendar as 15 minutes earlier. The worst than can happen is you sit for 15 minutes in a quiet waiting room. Finally, time and space to hear yourself think.
Turn off your cellphone
Last but not least, please turn off your phone. Not on vibrate. Off. Do it before your appointment actually starts, to avoid forgetting and/or getting distracted by a call or message immediately before you’re about to begin. This is your time and no one else’s. Make it count.
Some of these things are easy to forget. Create a pre-acupuncture checklist, something you can glance at on the days you have acupuncture, once first thing in the morning and again just before your appointment.
You don’t have to literally lie down or take a nap (although, bonus if you can). By rest, I mean, go easy. Don’t help your friend move into a six-floor walkup apartment. Don’t babysit for your sister’s colicky baby and two-month-old puppy. Don’t stay up really late that night. Some people get a jolt of energy after acupuncture, but better to savor the boost—chances are, you need it. Resting allows the physical and emotional restoration that acupuncture sets in motion to continue.
Go light on exercise
A lot of people ask whether they can workout after acupuncture. Exercise is fine—light, gradual movement can be a nice adjunct to an acupuncture treatment—but be gentle. If you’re a runner, try walking on the day you have acupuncture. If you normally take advanced yoga classes, give a beginner or intermediate class a whirl. If you’ve never hiked to the top of that mountain, acupuncture day probably isn’t the best day to try.
One of the most common questions I get from people who are going to acupuncture for pain relief is, “Should I use heat or ice?” Heat is the answer almost every time. From an acupuncture perspective, many pain conditions are caused by stagnation. Things are not moving smoothly through the channels, causing blockages that lead to pain. Acupuncture restores flow, helping to eliminate these blockages. Looking at pain in this way, ice is counterproductive—it causes things to remain stagnant and slows down the healing process. After acupuncture, choose heat.
Avoid alcohol and coffee
This is for two reasons:
1) It’s important to stay hydrated after acupuncture because it can cause toxins to be released into your system. Staying appropriately hydrated helps flush out these toxins. Since alcohol and coffee both cause dehydrating effects on the body, they should be avoided after acupuncture.
2) Alcohol and coffee mess with your bodily awareness. One of the main goals of acupuncture is to bring greater clarity and awareness to how we really feel. Since alcohol impairs the senses and coffee falsely heightens them, both can potentially counteract or mask the effects of acupuncture.
You don’t have to eliminate these things from your life, but steer clear for a day or two after acupuncture.
Turn off the TV
Acupuncture helps bring you into a place of balance, where your sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) is no longer in overdrive. Your mind is calmer and clearer, enjoying a respite from the overstimulating world in which we live. As soon as you click on that TV, it all comes flooding back—incessant advertising, screaming pundits, news flashes, noise and more noise. Keep the TV off and you’ll extend your state of acu-bliss.
Eat good food
Acupuncture helps bring the toxins out. Don’t knowingly put them back in by eating poor-quality food. Avoid processed foods and sugar. Think about food as sustenance, and eating as an opportunity to continue healing your body after acupuncture. When we conceive of food in this way, fast food and other junk become less appealing. After acupuncture, imagine the foods that would make you feel nourished and healthy, then go eat them.