How can traditional acupuncture help me?

Traditional acupuncture aims to treat the whole person rather than the specific symptoms in isolation, so it can be effective for a wide range of conditions, from clearly defined complaints to more general feelings of ill health and low energy. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends acupuncture on the NHS for treatment of lower back pain, migraines and headaches.

For more information on the scientific research into the effectiveness of acupuncture for different medical conditions please look at the British Acupuncture Council research fact sheets or just give Sarah a call.

What should I expect in the first session?

This is called the “Traditional Diagnosis”. Over about 90 minutes the practitioner will ask questions about your current symptoms and your medical and family history. Your general health will be assessed with questions about sleep, diet, digestion and emotional issues. The acupuncturist will take your pulses on both wrists and look at your tongue. The pulses are compared for strength, quality and rhythm. The answers to the questions and the pulse and tongue diagnosis are used to devise a safe and effective treatment. This helps the acupuncturist to treat at the level of the root cause of the problem so that your symptoms improve overall rather than looking for a “quick fix”.

What should I expect from treatment?

Normal treatments will last about 45 minutes. There will be a short discussion about your condition since the last treatment so the practitioner can formulate the day’s treatment plan. A few needles will be used which may be left in for 15-20 minutes or removed instantly. There are points all over the body and they may not be used near the problem area itself. For example, if you suffer with headaches it is common to have needles inserted in the hands or feet.

How much treatment will I need?

Everyone is different so it is difficult to say exactly how many treatments you will need. It is usual to have a course of treatment and most patients notice changes after 4-6 sessions. You will probably have weekly treatments until your symptoms have significantly improved then treatments can be spaced out. Eventually you may choose to come for “preventative” treatment once every few months to stop the symptoms returning and maintain your overall wellbeing.

Additional treatment techniques

Acupuncturists may supplement treatment with moxa, a herb that gently smoulders. This can be used on the needle or directly on the skin to warm a specific acupuncture point, or in a stick to warm a larger area. Cupping is another technique that may be used to help move energy in a local problem area. These suction cups produce a deep sensation like an intense massage.

Is it safe?

Acupuncture with a trained and fully qualified practitioner is one of the safest and longest established forms of healthcare. It is suitable for people of all ages, including pregnant women and children, and can be used effectively alongside conventional medicine.

Two research studies conducted in 2011 and 2012 concluded that when practiced by fully trained traditional acupuncturists (such as members of the BAcC) the risk of adverse events from acupuncture is extremely low.

What does it feel like?

Acupuncture needles are nothing like the needles used for taking blood samples or giving injections. They are very fine, solid needles which are not usually felt as they go through the skin. However, you will feel a sensation as the needle reaches the acupuncture point and starts to work. This sensation is described in different ways such as a dull ache, tingling or heavy sensation. Many people feel deeply relaxed during treatment and may even fall asleep!

What will I feel like after treatment?

Most people feel relaxed and calm after treatment. You may feel tired or drowsy after a treatment but this passes quickly. Treatment may enhance your feeling of wellbeing as well as resolve your main health complaint. Occasionally you may get a small bruise at a needle site.

Should my doctor know?

If you have been prescribed medication we recommend that you tell your doctor that you plan to have acupuncture but you do not need a GP referral to come for treatment. Your acupuncturist will need to know about any medication and supplements you are taking. BAcC acupuncturists are trained to recognise potentially serious underlying health conditions and will refer you to your GP if they consider it appropriate.

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Where can I find more information?

British Acupuncture Council

College of Integrated Chinese Medicine

Lingfield Osteopathic Centre

Professional Standards Authority