Acupuncture

Acupuncture on the shoulder

Frequently Asked Questions

Acupuncture originated in China and is still practised as a stand-alone therapy and in combination with conventional medicine. Acupuncture is now widely used and accepted all over the world. The World Health Organisation lists many conditions that acupuncture can help. Acupuncture is based on Chinese Medicine principles that have been developed, researched and refined over 2,000 years. ‘Dry Needling’ used by chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths’ is based on Western Medical understanding of acupuncture and is not the same. Acupuncture works to help maintain your body’s equilibrium, whether recovering from injury or emotional upset. It involves the insertion of very fine needles in specific points to help your body bring back its balance or homeostasis. It works primarily through the body’s nervous system, and energy or Qi, as it is known in China. This can then impact on all other body systems, including endocrine (hormones), immune and circulatory.
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. Others choose acupuncture simply to enhance their feeling of wellbeing. Acupuncture is considered suitable for all ages and can be used effectively alongside conventional medicine.
A number of different diagnostic methods will be used 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, a diagnosis will be made and your personal treatment plan will be discussed with you. Acupuncture points are selected according to your symptoms as well as your underlying pattern. The single-use sterile needles come in sealed packs and safely disposed of after each treatment. As part of your acupuncture treatment you may also experience cupping (a type of massage), warming herbal liniments or far-infra red heat lamps.
Acupuncture needles are much finer than needles used for injections and blood tests. When the needle is inserted you may feel a tingling sensation or pleasant dull ache. After the treatment many people usually feel very relaxed.
The results of two independent surveys published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 (MacPherson et al, White et al, both BMJ September 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 mild dizziness, and very occasionally minor bruising may occur. However, all such reactions are short-lived (see section below).
If you have been prescribed medication it advisable to tell your doctor that you are planning to have acupuncture. Do not stop taking your medication. At your first consultation you will be asked about what medication and supplements you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment.
Some insurance companies will pay for acupuncture treatment. Because each insurance provider has different restrictions, it is best to consult with your provider to determine if your treatment will be covered. The WPA generally only insure members of the General Medical Council and British Medical Society (BMAS) but in July 2016 gave me “Discretionary Recognition to provide care for their customers”.
Frequency and number of sessions depend on your individual condition. Usually most conditions will benefit from initially weekly or twice weekly sessions at first. Some change is usually felt within five or six treatments, although occasionally just one or two treatments are sufficient. Some people choose to have regular acupuncture to maintain good health.
Some people turn to acupuncture for help with a specific symptom or condition and minimise their reliance on medication. Others choose to have treatment to help maintain good health, as a preventive measure, or simply to improve their general sense of wellbeing. Because traditional acupuncture aims to treat the whole person rather than specific symptoms in isolation, it can be effective for a range of conditions. Acupuncture treats the person, not just the condition which they have, so each patient’s treatment plan will be different. You can always discuss your condition before seeking treatment to give you an idea of what to expect. Many people return to acupuncture again and again because they find it so beneficial and relaxing.
Most people find acupuncture relaxing and often feel very calm after a treatment. Acupuncture has very few side effects and any that do occur are usually mild and self-correcting.

What are the possible side effects of acupuncture?

  • Drowsiness or being ‘spaced out’ can occur and if affected, you are advised not to drive. Though this usually passes fairly quickly. This side-effect is popular with clients that experience it (!) and indeed is a positive aspect of treatment.  Because you will be in ‘Rest and Digest’ mode rather than ‘Fight or Flight’, avoid vigorous exercise after treatment as well as drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs for several hours after treatment;
  • Minor bleeding or bruising can occur from acupuncture needles;
  • For a few clients (particularly those being treated for muscular conditions), symptoms may become worse before they improve for 1-2 days following treatment. This is usually a good sign. Please advise me if worsening of symptoms continues for more than 2 days;
  • Fainting can occur in certain patients, particularly at the first treatment or if you have very low blood pressure.

Apart from the usual medical details, it is important that you let me know:

  • If you have ever experienced a fit, faint, or other odd detached sensations;
  • If you have a pacemaker or any other electrical implants;
  • If you are pregnant;
  • If you have a bleeding disorder;
  • If you are taking anti-coagulants (blood thinners) or any other medication;
  • If you have damaged heart valves or have any other particular risk of infection.
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