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How does acupuncture work?

Additional to the details on the acupuncture page illustrating how acupuncture works I've included some more information here.  As well as the thousands of years of clinical application, an increasing amount of rigorous scientific research is being done to explore this form of medicine - for me some of the most fascinating are experiments involving MRI scanning to monitor brain activity at rest, during fake needling and when correct acupuncture needling is used.  The body of evidence for various ailments is constantly expanding.  Below are some useful links to relevant articles, please also see my testimonials page to see people’s experience of working with me.


What does it feel like to have acupuncture and what does a typical treatment involve?

Over my years of practice I've cultivated a very gentle needling style and whilst I've treated many people who don’t like needles, without exception they have reported to me that they feel comfortable and relaxed throughout their treatment and that only very occasionally is there minor discomfort - it's nothing like having an injection.

Initial consultation involves a full diagnosis (including details of your main complaint, general health and lifestyle) and your first treatment.  An explanation of treatment and diagnosis will be given and a treatment plan discussed along with any lifestyle and dietary advice.  Follow-up appointments include a review of your progress and treatment.  

Extremely fine ‘hair-thin’, single-use, pre-sterilised, disposable needles are used.  Gentle manipulation at specific points stimulates your body’s natural healing response and helps return it to a more balanced state.  Following needle insertion you may feel a brief dull ache or tingling; this can sometimes be a strong sensation but normally disappears quickly.


How many treatments will I need?

This depends on the severity and duration of your condition and will be discussed during the initial consultation.  Generally, the more severe and the more chronic the complaint the more treatments will be needed but every person is different and their health will change at its own pace.

Typically, I recommend an initial course of 4-6 weekly treatments, at which point benefits should be apparent and progress can be reviewed; if further treatment is needed a plan can then be created.  Lifestyle changes can often have a big impact on the speed of recovery so will be discussed during consultations.

In the instance of treating fertility or gynaecological conditions, 3 months of treatment is advisable to be able to monitor the monthly cycle effectively (usually with weekly treatments for the first month and then treatments every 2-3 weeks at key points in the cycle for the following months).


What are the guidelines for acupuncture practice?

Acupuncture is safe, including during pregnancy and when undergoing most conventional medical treatment*.  As a member of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) I abide by their Code of Safe Practice (i.e. I use single-use, pre-sterilised, disposable needles, use a ‘clean field’ – a tray or table and dishes which has been disinfected – to practice from and keep my hands clean and sterile).  A full copy of the BAcC Code of Safe Practice can be provided if you’d like further details.

Research shows that acupuncture is safe

The British Acupuncture Council responds to a recent article in a national newspaper:

“There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practised by a fully qualified practitioner of traditional acupuncture. 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.  To further reduce the risk of any potential side effects, patients should look out for a registered practitioner from the British Acupuncture Council.  The BAcC stamp of approval means that the practitioner is an accredited acupuncturist providing the highest standard of professional care to patients, with degree level training and strict codes of safe practice, which are in place to protect the patient from these sorts of incidents.”

Source - BAcC

*If acupuncture is not suitable for your condition I will discuss this with you during the initial consultation and suggest an alternative that either I or someone else can provide.  It is always advisable to bring details of any medication you are taking and any major health problems you have when you come for your first treatment to aid evaluation.


Do I need to do anything before or after treatment?

It's best not to come for treatment on an empty or very full stomach, after or just before heavy exertion or when under the influence of alcohol.

Following treatment it's best not to drink alcohol or do strenuous exercise and it's preferable to be able to have some time to be quiet, calm and rest afterwards to allow your body to process treatment.


What should I wear?

Whilst there is no need to wear anything particular for treatment, most people like to wear loose, comfortable clothing to help them relax.

Depending on where on your body you need treatment you may need to remove some of your outer clothing (particularly if you need treatment on your back) but you will be covered during treatment.

It's very important to me that people feel comfortable, so if you'd rather not remove an item of clothing then I will endeavour to find an alternative way of treating if there is something else that will also be effective.


What are pulse and tongue diagnosis?

As well as hearing about what’s brought you for treatment, Chinese Medicine uses a few unique methods of diagnosis including feeling the pulse on the wrist and looking at the tongue.  Different pulse qualities (such as width, depth, speed, rhythm) and colours and coatings on the tongue indicate the state of physiological patterns within the body and aid accurate diagnosis for the most effective treatment. 


What are gua sha, cupping and moxibustion?

Please see the additional therapies page for information.


Can the neuromuscular tape be used on sensitive skin?

The tape used for this technique is made of pure cotton fibre and has a non-allergenic adhesive.  If you are fine with conventional plasters then you should be fine with this tape, but if you are concerned about skin allergies, a small section of the tape can be placed on the inner wrist for 15 minutes as a tester.


Is there any treatment I can have if I don't like needles?

Yes, gua sha, cupping and neuromuscular taping or qigong lessons can be used if they are appropriate to your condition.  However, often people who don't normally like needles are actually fine with acupuncture, it's very different to having an injection.