Frequently Asked Questions about Acupuncture
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting small needles into the body to bring about positive changes in health and well-being. It originated in China and other far eastern cultures, where it still features in mainstream healthcare, both as a stand-alone therapy and in combination with conventional western medicine.
Chinese medicine – Acupuncture and the causes of disease:
The Chinese medical model considers your body to be regulated by a healthy circulation of blood & body fluids and good communication between organ systems. By extension of this concept illness results from circulation becoming compromised in some way, leading to pathology and then signs and symptoms of illness.
For most of us strain and compromised health can exist long before signs and symptoms show themselves – for example serious illness may be sudden in its appearance (e.g. stroke or heart attack) but changes in the body process like this do not occur over night.
Treating someone to maintain good health - before disease becomes serious or chronic is much easier than addressing serious disease once it as developed. While serious conditions can be treated it may be more difficult.
Causes of illness can be external: diet, lifestyle, climatic factors, viral/bacterial influences or physical trauma for example. Alternatively they may stem from what Chinese medicine classifies as “internal causes” – this is essentially how we react to circumstances or events, in its most acute form you could call it emotional trauma.
This may be something that on the surface does not appear to be overly significant like neglect as a child, or something clearly damaging, like violence, which may have both a physical & an emotional impact on the body. Whatever the source our emotions can cause intense feelings that may affect us physically.
The causes of illness are usually a combination of these factors. Historically Chinese physicians were unique in their understanding and consideration of emotional and physical causes in disease giving Chinese Medicine one of its great strengths.
Tui-na is thought to be the oldest massage form. Its origin is in China, with slightly different styles being practiced from region to region. Many of the techniques used will be familiar to anyone who has ever had a massage as well as some that aren't! It is a very beneficial addition to Acupuncture treatment, especially where there is chronic pain or stiffness in the body.
Tui na is performed over clothing, so loose fitting garments are best. There are surgical gowns to wear in case you forget and you will be covered over in order for the massage to be done.
Tui na works so well with Acupuncture because the roots of the practice are the same. It is based on the same medical principles as Acupuncture.
This involves the burning of herbal material on specific locations (similar locations to the acupuncture points). The warming effect improves local circulation to help bring about regulation and healing.
Made was famous by Gwyneth Paltrow, who attended a red carpet event with cupping marks on her back. Using a vacuum glass cups are placed on the body, often on the back. Cupping helps relieve pain by moving de-oxygenated blood stuck in deeper muscle or tissue to the surface – the process causes marks that look like bruising (even though the method is pain free). These marks will disperse gradually over a period of about 7-10 days.
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.
This means acupuncture is a very safe therapy.
In rare situations responses to treatment can sometimes include tiredness or mild dizziness, and very occasionally minor bruising may occur. However, all such reactions are short-lived and are less likely to happen if you do not come to treatment without having eaten.
Aggravations resulting from treatment occur occasionally and should this happen you would be advised to contact James to discuss what has happened.
Acupuncture needles are single-use, sterile, and are immediately disposed of once they are removed.
Acupuncture is a very safe, effective treatment to give to children and adults alike.
When treating children the needles are not retained (smaller needles specifically for children are used). Once the diagnosis is made the treatment itself is usually over very quickly.
- Many people come to Acupuncture for help with specific symptoms or to relieve specific pains
- Some use Acupuncture because they feel generally unwell but have no obvious diagnosis
- You may have tried conventional medical treatment and have not had positive results
- Others choose Acupuncture simply to enhance their feeling of well-being
- Acupuncture is considered suitable for all ages including babies and children
- It can be used safely and effectively alongside conventional medicine, and in some cases can enable reduction in doses of medication (this is done in conjunction with the prescribing doctor)
If you have been prescribed medication it is recommend you tell your doctor that you are planning to have Acupuncture.
It is important that you do not stop taking your medication without seeking the advice of the prescribing doctor.
You should certainly fully disclose to James any medication you may be taking these and supplements may affect your response to the Acupuncture treatment and this information is important in your treatment strategy.
British Acupuncture Council members are trained to recognise potentially serious underlying health conditions and may refer you to your GP or another healthcare professional if they consider it appropriate.
Acupuncture has been found to be an effective treatment, free from side effects. It is safe to receive alongside taking your prescription. There are very few circumstances in which treatment is not appropriate, James can advise you should this be the case.
However: It is important that you do not stop taking your medication without seeking the advice of the prescribing doctor.
James has a policy of contacting other therapists working with clients, where appropriate, (including GPs) in order to have a rounded idea of the case, but will only do this with your consent.
Some people turn to Acupuncture for help with a specific symptom or condition, while others choose to have treatment to help maintain good health, as a preventive measure, or simply to improve their general sense of wellbeing.
Acupuncture aims to treat the whole person rather than specific symptoms in isolation, so it can be effective for a range of conditions. To discuss your individual needs with me you can arrange a free, confidential consultation.
Remember that acupuncturists treats you as a whole, not just the condition you have, so each patient’s treatment plan will be different. However, you can always ask me about other patients’ experiences, to give you an idea of what to expect.
The Advertising Standards Authority and the Committee of Advertising Practice currently govern the Acupuncture profession’s electronic and public space advertising.
These authorities ensure practitioners follow the rules of what can be written in advertising about Acupuncture (The UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing, this came into force for written and electronic marketing on the 1 March 2011) but unfortunately this limits what detail can be included online.
For a more comprehensive and personal look at your needs please call me on 07974 648902.
However you may have already heard in the press that in 2009 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended that Acupuncture should be made available on the NHS, as a cost-effective short-term treatment for the management of early, persistent non-specific lower back pain.
There are many other conditions that respond well to Acupuncture.
The first consultation is about an hour. James will ask you about four main subjects:
- The main reason for seeking treatment
- Your previous medical history
- How any other physical systems are working (sleeping, appetite, bowels, etc)
- Some personal background information
All this information helps to fine tune the best treatment for you based on your unique presentation.
If it's your first time coming it is my aim to get a response as quickly as possible. I usually recommend treatment for a minimum of 4-6 sessions but each person’s need is different.
Treatment usually has three phases, although the needs of each case are assessed individually:
Frequency and number of sessions depend on your individual condition, it is common to have treatment once a week at first. If you are in severe pain then you are more likely to need more frequent visits to reduce the symptoms as quickly as possible: typically this is 2-4 weeks of treatment twice a week.
Once there have been sufficient positive changes the appointments are less frequent; during this phase it is common to want to “test it out” or tend to overdoing it because of the relative absence of symptoms.
However, it is important to remember that although the symptoms may be reduced but the healing process is still unfolding and the body is vulnerable to re-injury or re-aggravation.
Individual lifestyles differ and how people chose to manage their health varies. Some people choose to have regular Acupuncture to maintain good health rather than only coming when they are ill – however I do see a number of people on a monthly basis in order to keep them well.
Patients with chronic conditions or symptoms that tend to recur may also benefit from maintenance which can be tailored to fit their needs.
A number of different diagnostic methods are combined to get a complete picture of your health and lifestyle – including taking a full medical history, physical examination where appropriate, as well as examining your pulse, and looking at your tongue. James also specializes in palpation of the connective tissue (just underneath the surface of the skin) on order to fine tune diagnosis. For this reason it is useful to wear clothing that allows easy access to the forearms and lower legs (from the knee down) where this palpation is done.
Based on this information, a diagnosis and your personal treatment plan using the best methods Acupuncture points for your symptoms and constitution are chosen.
Loose clothing is ideal, as the most treated locations tend to be in the lower limbs – below the elbow and below the knee. Should any other locations be necessary I will seek your consent before treatment and a surgical gown with private changing space will be provided if clothing needs to be removed.
In spite of some myths and an understandable expectation from some that it will be unpleasant, as needles are involved, Acupuncture does not have to be painful in order to be effective.
Acupuncture needles are much finer than needles used for injections and blood tests. When the needle is inserted you may feel a small scratch followed by one of a number of different potential mild sensations: tingling, distension, mild numbness or dull aching.
All of these sensations are normal and will subside quickly, leaving you to relax. If needles are retained many patients report feeling a sense of relaxation and many even fall asleep.