As treatment is focused on the whole person rather than the disease, a diagnosis is made by careful questioning and observation. Questioning is aimed at obtaining a detailed picture of how a person’s body is functioning in order to diagnose the nature of the disharmony. This involves exploring many aspects of a person’s life including their full medical history, eating and sleeping patterns, emotional well-being and lifestyle. Feeling the pulse and looking at the tongue are also important for the diagnosis. Once this information has been obtained a treatment strategy can be formulated.

During treatment, sterile, disposable, stainless steel needles are inserted into acupuncture points. The needles are so fine that there is usually little or no discomfort upon insertion. Once inserted, the sensation is often described as a tingling or dull ache. The needles are either withdrawn immediately or left in for up to 20 minutes depending upon the effect required. Patients often experience a feeling of relaxation during the treatment. Occasionally, there is the application of warmth to the points using a herb called Moxa. As each person is unique, two people with the same Western diagnosis may well receive different acupuncture treatments.