In Oriental medicine, health is more than just the absence of pain and illness, it's the creation and maintenance of physical, emotional, and spiritual balance. There are three stages of care to help you achieve and maintain that balance: relief care, corrective care, and maintenance and wellness.
Most people begin acupuncture to gain relief from pain or other symptoms. This is relief care. During this step, Dr. Earl recommends a minimum of two, or sometimes three, treatments per week. These concentrated appointments build a foundation on which the body can establish permanent and stable change, as each treatment builds upon the previous one. Essentially, they help the body to help itself. They also help you feel better faster.
Your age, the severity of your symptoms, the length of time you've experienced them, your stress level, diet, lifestyle, response to acupuncture, and quantity and quality of your Qi (life energy), all play into determining how long the relief care stage will last.
Once your symptoms start to diminish, the underlying problem can be addressed. This is the corrective care stage. Though your treatments will be less frequent, they are no less crucial. This phase maintains and supports the changes achieved during relief care and provides a foundation for deeper, more long-lasting healing.
The maintenance and wellness stage preserves all the progress you've made and further strengthens your body's resistance keeping you healthy and balanced. Visits may be monthly, every other month, or four times a year at the change of the seasons. (In traditional Asian cultures, people visit their acupuncturist four times a year, for a seasonal "tune up.") Maintenance and wellness treatments are no different than—and every bit as important as—taking your car in for regular oil changes. Your body will run more smoothly, and small concerns will be less likely to become major problems.
All patients are unique, and everyone responds differently to acupuncture. Some people experience a dramatic improvement after their first few treatments. Others don't notice much until they had 10 or 15. And still others show a slow, steady, and continuous improvement over several months.
Any change—good, bad, or just different—while you're undergoing treatment is an indication that the acupuncture is working. Most people experience ups and downs throughout their treatment plan, though the downs become less frequent and shorter in duration.
Some people also experience what's known as a healing crisis during the relief care stage when they feel extremely tired and experience an exaggeration of their symptoms. Your body goes through periods of mending, then resting from the mending. Sometimes you may feel like you're going six steps forward, then six steps back, but you are always moving in a forward direction. You may also look at it as a kind of energetic rebooting, and once it is over, your condition will have improved significantly.
Prior to your first visit with Dr. Earl, you will need to fill out a set of forms that detail your current state of health, any symptoms you may be experiencing, and your goals for treatment. Click here to request forms These forms play a major role in the design of your personalized treatment plan so be sure to bring them to your first appointment.
Your first office visit will last 45 minutes. Dr. Earl will go through the forms you filled out, ask a series of questions regarding your symptoms, health, and lifestyle, and check your pulses and your tongue (we'll talk about the pulses and tongue in a moment) then you'll have your first acupuncture treatment. After your first visit, Dr. Earl will create your personalized treatment plan which will likely include a combination of acupuncture, herbal and/or enzyme therapy, and lifestyle and dietary recommendations. Dr. Earl will go over this plan thoroughly at the beginning of your second visit, including the role that you'll be expected to play, and then you will receive your second acupuncture treatment.
Typically, people are surprised by how much acupuncture doesn't hurt. Six to 10 needles will be inserted at depths ranging from 1/8 to 1 1/2 inches depending on the location of the needle and the weight of the patient. When the needle has reached the appropriate depth, there is a sensation called "de Qi", which translates to "the arrival of Qi." The sensations you feel will be sore, dull, heavy, achy, electric, or tingling, and will dissipate quickly. Do not confuse this sensation with the insertion of the needle which most people do not feel. The needles are then left in place for about 20 minutes, and while you may retain awareness of one or two of them, any level of discomfort is rare. In fact, most people find acupuncture extremely relaxing, and many fall asleep during the treatment.
Following your initial visit, you'll see Dr. Earl a minimum of twice a week, for at least a month. This initial concentration of treatments is essential for most patients.
Your appointments will last around 45 minutes. In essence, your health is reassessed each visit and your treatment modified accordingly. You'll discuss any changes that have occurred since your previous treatment, and Dr. Earl will check your pulses and tongue. In Oriental medicine, your pulse and tongue are important diagnostic tools. The pulse, in particular, provides Dr. Earl with an understanding of your health on many different levels. There are 6 positions on each wrist, and each position corresponds to a specific organ system, also known as orbs.
In addition to the acupuncture treatment you'll receive each visit, Dr. Earl may prescribe different herbs or enzymes depending on your progress.
Do not come to treatment on a empty stomach. It's recommended that you eat a meal or a snack at least two hours prior to your treatment to avoid becoming weak or light headed.
You should also avoid extreme physical exertion and, whenever possible, stress for at least one hour after each treatment. Dr. Earl also asks that you not use electric blankets or heating pads while you are under his care as they can interfere with the acupuncture. (The body has its own electromagnetic field with its own north and south poles. As the acupuncture works to bring those poles into balance, the heating pads and blankets may confuse the flow of Qi, thus work against the treatments.) Most importantly, you should enjoy each treatment. Relax, clear your mind, and allow your body, mind, and soul to facilitate the healing that is taking place. The more relaxed and open to the process you are, the more effective the treatments will be.