The Treatment itself
There are two parts to each session - diagnosis and treatment. In actual fact, of course, they are inseparable, but on the first treatment they are more clearly defined.
Initially, it is important for me to understand the context of your complaint in relation to you as a person. This involves some conversation and my taking details of both your medical and your life history.
From this, my intention is to diagnose and treat any detectable underlying imbalance, as well as to treat the complaint itself. (This is why acupuncture is so good at remedying those nebulous complaints of general "unwellness", as well as providing potentially preventative medical care).Traditionally this is known as treating the "root" (after which the treatment of the "branch", or the complaint itself, is made easier). To do this, I palpate the radial pulse and the abdomen, the backs of the calves, the ankles and some of the meridians and points themselves, looking for particular subtle patterns of imbalance.
More often than not, the treatment will involve some "toyohari" treatment, during which I select and treat a few points with a silver needle. The aim of this is to balance the meridians. It involves some concentrated work on my behalf, but it's great for the patient, because the needle never actually penetrates the skin.
Sometimes a set of two or four needles is inserted superficially, barely beneath the skin, often in the lower legs and forearms or wrists. These needles may be connected to each other by fine wires so that they "contact" each other across the body. People often find this part of a treatment profoundly relaxing.
After this, I may insert some needles in points on the back, and may sometimes burn moxa on the handles of these needles. This is generally experienced as being extremely relaxing, a bit like lying on a beach in the sunshine. Alternately, I may just do more "toyohari" treatment on the back.
Then I set to work to address the symptoms themselves, using a variety of methods at specific locations. These include using needles, "direct moxa" (a powerful treatment consisting of burning tiny pieces of moxa on the skin providing an instant pinch of heat on an acupuncture point), "indirect moxa" consisting of burning larger cones of moxa on specific points which are removed either before or just after any warmth is felt, auricular acupuncture (needles in points in the ear), sotai (which is a gentle form of physical manipulation from Japan), hand acupuncture and various other methods of treatment, depending on the condition and the response.
Before and After the treatment
For a couple of hours before and after treatment, I advise avoiding excessive exercise, heavy meals, hot baths, or any excessive circumstances. Beforehand, this would result in possible misinformation in the diagnosis, and afterwards, this is likely not only to undo the treatment, but also may severely upset your system with possible negative consequences. Ideally, it is a good idea to allow an acupuncture treatment to "settle".