The day of your first appointment
Congratulations! You finally found a doctor of Chinese medicine and made an appointment. There are some tips that can make your appointment run smoothly.
When you arrive for your appointment, you will be asked to fill out paperwork similar to the forms you find in an MD’s office. The big difference is that all of those minor aches and pains, strange aversions to temperature or wind, and funny tastes in your mouth are all very important to the Chinese medicine diagnosis and the physician's choice of your best treatment. Be sure to give lots of detail when you fill it out.
In addition to the forms, the physician will ask you questions, such as if your symptoms are better or worse during a particular season, if certain foods such as cold, raw or spicy have an effect, and if your condition is worse with stress. The TCM doctor will also ask questions about your bowel movements, sleep patterns, if you prefer hot or cold drinks, etc.
Be sure to eat breakfast or lunch before you go. If you get an acupuncture treatment while you have low blood sugar, it is possible that you may get dizzy or nauseous.
Most Acupuncturists will ask to see your tongue as part of the diagnostic process, so try to avoid any colored liquids or foods such as coffee or blueberries before you go. Also, if you normally brush or scrape your tongue, do not do it the day you of your appointment. It is ok to brush your teeth, though. If you do have a colored liquid before going in be sure to let your doctor know. Also, if possible avoid Pepto-Bismol the day before going in, it can cause some people to get a black coating on their tongue the next day.
Depending on your complaint, you may have to disrobe for the treatment. You will be supplied with a drape or gown for your comfort. It is recommended that you wear loose fitting clothing or bring shorts to change into. Many times the treatment will focus below the knees and below the elbows so disrobing is not always an issue.
Check List For the Day of Your First Appointment
- Don’t brush your tongue
- Eat before you go
- Dress comfortably
- Bring supplements or prescription medications
- Bring any current blood work or x-ray/MRI results
- Bring your insurance card or PIP/Workmen’s comp claim numbers/information
- Wear minimal or no make up so that your natural skin tone can be seen
When You Arrive
When you arrive at your appointment, you will be asked to fill out a medical history form very similar to what you would complete at an MDs office. It is very important to list all aches and pains, even seemingly minor ones, since all of it figures into the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis.
Take some time to write down any past surgeries or injuries. Write down when your symptoms started, how they changed, and what makes them better or worse.
If you want to get a head start, you can click here to download our Intake Forms, complete them at home and bring them with you for your visit.
Five Things to Bring to You First Appointment
- Medical records. These are very helpful. If you have x-rays or a detailed diagnosis from an MD, it can help the acupuncturist better understand your problem.
- Records of blood work are helpful. Recent research shows certain acupuncture points, herbs or foods can adjust red or white blood cell counts, lower cholesterol, PSA scores and much more.
- Prescription medications are very important to your TCM practitioner. Write down the name (with the proper spelling), dosage instructions, why you are taking them, how long you have taken them, and any warnings on the bottle. Or, you can just bring the bottles of pills in with you. Make a note of any symptoms that may have come up within a few weeks of starting a new medication (these suggestions hold true for MD appointments as well).
- Bring supplements, vitamins and herbs you are taking. The quality and dosage of supplements vary tremendously. Once a week we have a new patient who has literally boxes of supplements that they are taking, sometimes spending hundreds of dollars every month. I remember one case a patient who came in complaining of nerve pain in his hands and feet for five years. He had had tests for diabetes, MRIs, and other tests and nothing could be found to explain his neuropathy pain. I examined his vitamins and he was taking a toxic dosage of B-vitamins. He had read that B-vitamins helped with mental clarity and stress, so he started taking larger and larger dosages thinking more is better. Two months after reducing his vitamins to more moderate dosages he began feeling fine, and from the lower dosage saved about $150 a month.
- Insurance information is very important. Many insurance companies now cover acupuncture. If your treatment is related to a car accident or workman’s compensation, be sure to bring the information with you.
Depending on what your main complaint is, you may want to bring in a food diary, ovulation/cycle chart, emotions diary, exercise plan, or anything else that relates to what is going on with you.