Does it really work?
Acupuncture has been tried and tested over thousands of years in China and other Eastern countries, where it features in mainstream healthcare, both as a stand-alone therapy and in combination with conventional Western medicine. Acupuncture is now widely used and accepted all over the world. Evidence of its effectiveness is growing as researchers evaluate the best ways to measure how the body responds to it.
Acupuncture is now included in the following NICE Guidelines:
The management of all chronic pain (primary and secondary). A course of 5 Acupuncture treatments are recommended.
Diagnosis and management of headaches
Some people are concerned that acupuncture is only a placebo and that a positive response to treatment means it is ‘all in the mind’. However research shows that the benefits of acupuncture can at least partly be explained by science. For example, acupuncture has been demonstrated to reduce activity in the parts of the brain associated with the perception of pain and increase activity in brain areas associated with improved self-regulation.
You can read more about the latest acupuncture research at Evidence Based Acupuncture, of which I am a member.
Can acupuncture help me?
Some people choose acupuncture for help with specific symptoms like headaches or osteoarthritis of the knee. Others come because they feel generally unwell but have no obvious diagnosis. Many simply want to enhance their feeling of well being, and return to acupuncture because they find it so beneficial and relaxing.
What happens in a treatment?
Acupuncture begins with an in-depth consultation lasting about one and a half hours. I will ask you about your health concerns, including the history of any specific conditions, as well as your overall health history. Aspects of your lifestyle such as diet and exercise may be relevant in order to build up a picture of you as a whole. The diagnosis also includes examination of your abdomen, your specific symptomatic areas, and feeling the pulses on your wrists.
I will then put together an individual treatment plan. Treatments generally take about 45 minutes. During the treatment you will be sitting or lying on a treatment couch. Your personal comfort is very important to me and for the effectiveness of treatment I will always do my best to ensure that you feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
What does it feel like?
Many people who are afraid of needles are surprised to find they did not feel any pain during the treatment. I often use a 'contact needle' style of acupuncture where the person hardly feels the needle. When they are inserted, acupuncture needles are so fine that most people don't feel them. Most people feel deeply relaxed during the treatment.
Frequently massage is used to increase the effectiveness of treatment and to enhance the experience of deep relaxation during treatment.
Sometimes moxa will be used. This is a smouldering herb that warms acupuncture points and enhances the beneficial effects of treatment.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments on offer in the UK. Two research studies conducted in 2011 and 2012 concluded that when conducted by properly trained acupuncturists, the risk of adverse eventsfrom acupuncture is extremely low.
How many sessions will I need?
The number and frequency of appointments will depend on the diagnosis and treatment plan agreed with you. Typically you will be seen weekly for the first three or four treatments and the plan will then be reviewed. It may take a few treatments before any change is felt, although occasionally people will feel better sooner.
Some people require long term treatments. Others decide to have regular maintenance treatments once their main complaint has been resolved, maybe once a month, or seasonally.