What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture originated thousands of years ago in China and then spread thoughout the far East. It is a healing art which has developed over the centuries to remain as relevant today as it was in ancient times. Acupuncture still features in mainstream healthcare in China, alongside modern conventional Western medicine. It could be argued that China is spearheading the integrative health movement.
Acupuncture and its related therapies (cupping, electro-acupuncture, gua sha, moxibustion) are now widely used and accepted all over the world and there is a wealth of research developing. In the UK more and more people are finding out what acupuncture can do for them.
Who has acupuncture?
Many people come to acupuncture for help with specific symptoms or to relieve specific pains like osteoarthritis of the knee. Some use acupuncture because they feel generally unwell but have no obvious diagnosis. A recent study showed a good effect for acupuncture in treating ‘mystery illness‘. Others choose acupuncture simply to enhance their feeling of wellbeing. Acupuncture is suitable for all ages and can be used effectively alongside conventional medicine.
What happens when I go for acupuncture?
The acupuncturist will use a number of different diagnostic methods to get a complete picture of your health and lifestyle, including taking a full medical history, reading your pulses, and looking at your tongue. Based on this information, the acupuncturist makes a diagnosis and puts together your personal treatment plan. Acupuncture points are selected according to your symptoms as well as your underlying energy pattern. The single-use sterile needles come in sealed packs: they should be opened in front of you and are safely disposed of after each treatment. Your practitioner may refer you to your GP or another healthcare professional if they consider it appropriate.
What does it feel like?
Acupuncture needles are very fine and you feel a slight pinch and then an achey or tingling sensation.
Is acupuncture safe?
The results of two independent surveys published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 (MacPherson et al, White et al, both BMJ 2001) concluded that the risk of serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. The needles used are single-use, sterile and disposable. Responses to treatment can sometimes include tiredness or mild-dizziness, and very occasionally minor bruising may occur. However, all such reactions are short-lived.
Should my doctor know?
If you have been prescribed medication we recommend you tell your doctor that you are planning to have acupuncture. Do not stop taking your medication. You should always tell your acupuncturist about any medication and supplements you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment.
How many sessions will I need?
Frequency and number of sessions depend on your individual condition. Your acupuncturist will normally ask to see you once or twice a week at first. Some change is usually felt within five or six treatments, although this may be felt immediately. Occasionally just one or two treatments are sufficient. Some people choose to have regular acupuncture to maintain good health.
Does acupuncture work?
Many people report finding acupuncture to be helpful in treating specific conditions or in helping a sense of well-being. Some people find they can cope with life better. There is a wealth of research into acupuncture; some shows it works and some doesn’t – as would be expected. If you click on the ‘Research’ button on the navigation bar on the left you will see links to different conditions with further links to the research into acupuncture for those conditions.
Do you use any other therapies?
Acupuncturists will also use other techniques. Moxibustion is the use of a smouldering herb, on the end of a needle or over the skin. This helps warm cold areas and to get the blood moving. I have recently started to use ‘low intensity laser therapy’ which can be used instead of or in combination with acupuncture needles. Occasionally I will use electro-acupuncture, where a small current is passed through pairs of needles. Cupping involves the use of suction to break up muscle tensions, or to pull out ‘pathogenic factors’. All treatment will be explained and discussed with you and only given with your full consent.
I am a member of the prestigious ‘British Acupuncture Council’. At present there is no statutory regulation of acupuncture in the UK. The British Acupuncture Council sets codes of safe practice and conduct.