What is Acupuncture? Traditional Acupuncture is a healthcare system founded on ancient principles which go back nearly two thousand years. According to Chinese Medicine, pain and illness are signs that the body is out of balance. The overall aim of acupuncture treatment is to restore the body's balance. Physical, emotional and mental aspects of a person's health and wellbeing are regarded as interconnected.
Based on traditional belief, Acupuncturists are trained to use subtle diagnostic techniques - the focus is on the individual, not their illness, and all the symptoms are seen in relation to each other. Each patient is unique; two people with the same western diagnosis may well receive different Acupuncture treatments.
Traditional Acupuncturists believe that illness and pain occur when the body's qi, or vital energy, cannot flow freely and becomes imbalanced. There can be many causes, that reflect the nature of the imbalance or illness, such as emotional and physical stress, infection, injury or not getting the right nutrition. By inserting ultra-fine sterile needles into specific acupuncture points, a Traditional Acupuncturist seeks to re-establish the free flow of qi to restore balance, triggering the body's natural healing response.
What should I expect from my first appointment? During your first appointment, I will take some time to get to know you through a detailed consultation. This is essential to understanding your current individual health needs within the system of Chinese Medicine. I'll ask you a few questions, some of which may seem unrelated, such as sleep, energy, thirst, body temperature.... you don't have to discuss anything you don't want to! I will also take your pulse and have a look at your tongue, both of which are major diagnostic tools in Chinese Medicine. Depending on your individual diagnosis, we will plan a treatment that is right for you. This can involve Acupuncture and/or Cupping and Moxa (see below).
Does Acupuncture hurt? Acupuncture generally does not hurt. Some people feel a mild tingle or dull ache, which is completely normal, and some people feel nothing. Acupuncture needles are not like normal hypodermic needles which are relatively much thicker - they are extremely fine, with a diameter similar to a thick human hair. While the needles are in place most people feel deeply relaxed, a feeling that can continue after they are removed.
Is Acupuncture safe? Acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments, both conventional and complementary, on offer in the UK. Two surveys conducted independently of each other and published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 concluded that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. This is far less than many orthodox medical treatments. One survey was of Traditional Acupuncturists and the other of Doctors who practice Acupuncture. A total of 66,000 treatments were reviewed altogether, with only a handful of minor and transient side effects recorded. A 2003 survey of 6,000 patients of acupuncture produced almost identical figures.
There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practised by a fully qualified practitioner of Traditional Acupuncture. Any minor side effects that do occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are mild and self-correcting. As a member of the British Acupuncture Council, I adhere to the following standards:
BAcC members have completed a first-degree-level training or equivalent in traditional acupuncture including substantial elements of western anatomy, physiology and pathology
I use only pre-sterilised single-use needles which are safely disposed of after your treatment
All my work is carried out in accordance with exemplary professional standards developed by the British Acupuncture Council and detailed in the BAcC Codes of Safe Practice and of Professional Conduct
I have full medical malpractice and public/product liability insurance cover.
What is cupping? Cupping is a therapy in which heated glass or non-heated plastic cups are applied to the skin, creating suction which stimulates the flow of blood and/or energy ('Qi') in areas of the body. It can be used in treating muscular pain, for sports recovery, or in treating other disorders as part of Chinese medicine. It is a painless treatment, and can feel very warming and soothing on the area being treated. The cups can leave red circular marks on the skin, where the blood has been drawn to capillaries near the surface. These fade, usually within 2-4 days.
What is moxa and moxibustion? Moxa is the name given to a dried herbal substance derived from the leaves of the Mugwort plant (Artemisia Vulgaris). Moxa is prepared into various forms that are used as an integral part of Chinese Medicine, used on or near the skin's surface around Acupuncture points as part of treatment. Smouldering moxa provides a therapeutic (and painless) heat to the local area, through a practice known as Moxibustion. If moxa is appropriate to your treatment, I will discuss it with you and can show you more about the practice and benefits of Moxa.
How many sessions will I need? This is one of the most common questions when patients come in for a first appointment. The short (and sometimes frustrating!) answer is – it varies greatly, depending on the individual, the symptoms and how long you’ve been experiencing your symptoms. If it’s something you’ve been experiencing for months or years, two or three sessions isn’t likely to resolve your symptoms. I thought it would be useful to explain this more…. As with other forms of medicine, Acupuncture is not a one-shot deal. It works cumulatively, meaning one treatment builds on the next. There are instances of acupuncture producing immediate results, however this is the exception to the rule. If you want lasting results from acupuncture, especially for a chronic condition, you need to commit to the process. This approach to healing can be unfamiliar to the western culture of instant gratification.
How long you’ve had your symptoms matters greatly, because we are creatures of habit – and so are our neural pathways. When you experience pain or trauma, your nerves create a specific pathway and connect to your brain. When you experience pain or trauma over and over, the same pathway becomes more deeply ingrained and your brain establishes a strong memory of that experience so that each time it happens that ‘pain file’ becomes quickly accessible.
By activating specific points with acupuncture, we’re helping your nervous system use new ways of problem-solving, stimulating different nerve pathways to approach a set of symptoms. We’re helping your body establish new habits of healing. This is a process, which (usually) takes time to have lasting impact.
Ultimately, the number and frequency of acupuncture sessions varies based on the individual, the symptoms and how long you have had the symptoms. A typical series of sessions consists of 6 to 12 visits, once or twice a week, becoming more spaced out as treatment progresses. Acute conditions, such as sprains, generally require less time and frequency, whereas more chronic or severe ailments may require several (or several dozen) sessions. Sometimes the effects of acupuncture treatment can be quick and intense, sometimes initial effects can be subtle. In our busy lives, it can be hard to tune into the subtle shifts, as your body adapts and responds. Pain can be less intense or less frequent, sleep can improve, digestion more settled – all these subtle shifts are early signs that the body is responding and treatment is starting to take effect.
My aim is always to resolve your symptoms as quickly as possible and get you back to feeling ‘you’ again – I will never recommend more treatment than you need.