How should I prepare for my first acupuncture appointment?

In my practice, I’ve found that acupuncture is still very new in the United States because of many unexpected situations happening. For example, patients’ tongues were either brushed or stained by colored foods and drinks. Sometimes people just come in for their first appointment with either an empty stomach or they had just finished a big meal. This will actually affect the acupuncturist’s diagnosis and treatment results. Of course, if you find a good acupuncturist, he/she will ask you to come back without brushing your tongue and without eating a big meal and/or colored foods and drinks. Now, you must wonder why it is necessary.

To explain this, we must first know the diagnosis system in Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. This whole system was created about 2500 years ago. Ancient Chinese doctors believed that what goes on inside the body will definitely show indications on the “outside” of the body, such as your pulse, your tongue, your eyes, face, hair, etc. in addition to your complaints, regardless of modern facilities to check what’s going on in the body in that time period. Since then, an almost perfect diagnosis system has been developed, which includes four main aspects:

  • observation
  • listening
  • history and complaints discussion
  • pulse examination and checking/pressing the troubled areas

In addition to these main four, there are some other things that need to be considered to make a diagnosis such as location/environment, climate, seasons, timing, age, gender, etc.

As you can see, all these are very natural ways to examine our bodies. One of the observation methods is about your tongue. The acupuncturist needs to see your tongue’s color, the color of the coating on the tongue, the shape of your tongue, etc. In terms of the color of your tongue, if it is too red or purplish, it means you have either poor circulation/stress, or you have qi stagnation/you are easily irritated or excited. If you have a pale tongue with teeth marks on it, it means you are fatigued.  The color of the coating on the tongue can help with the diagnosis even further. For example a thick, yellow, greasy coating means either too much “junk” or humidity inside the body. It means you either have a bad mood/you are irritated easily, or your energy is stuck inside your body. You feel heavy, lazy and sluggish. This is just one of the four aspects, and clearly it is already very indicative. The others show even more about the inside of the body.

If you brush your tongue before you go to the acupuncture office, all of the indications of the body from your tongue will be wrong, and this will affect the diagnosis. In turn, it won’t be helpful towards getting results from your treatment. If you have a good acupuncturist, they will remind you when you make your first appointment about this. Otherwise, you should ask what you should do before your visit.

In order to have the best understanding of your condition, it’s best to find an acupuncturist who has a broad background in modern medicine, herbal medicine, and acupuncture. If your acupuncturist asks you to bring all the lab test results or other test results from different specialists, congratulations, you have found one of the most thorough, top level acupuncturists!

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