Acupuncture is a system of healing, which has been used in China and the East for several thousand years. It uses a holistic approach, which focuses on improving the overall well-being of the patient rather than the isolated treatment of specific symptoms. It involves the insertion of needles into certain acupuncture points to rebalance the energy to allow energy to flow evenly around the body. Acupuncture is mainly performed on the body but may use additional points in the ear for helping with pain control and addiction therapy.
Your first consultation lasts about 1.5 hours and I take your case history and give you your first treatment. I will ask about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing and about how your body functions; sleep patterns, medical history, diet and temperature perception amongst other questions. I will also take your pulse and look at your tongue.
Having taken your case, I will have a much clearer understanding of the Chinese medicine patterns that make up your disharmonies and we can discuss a suitable treatment plan.
My acupuncture treatment normally begins with weekly appointments but, as your condition improves, these may become less frequent. The response to your acupuncture treatment, and success of it, will of course vary from individual to individual. Treatment can combine well with both western drug therapies as well as other conventional medical treatments.
A network of invisible channels of energy (Qi or Chi, pronounced ‘Chee’) runs just beneath the skin’s surface. The Qi moves in a balanced and smooth way in health, but if this becomes unbalanced then pain and illness may result. The Qi can be affected in several ways – there may be too much, too little, it may not flow smoothly, in the wrong direction or it could be a combination any of these. The flow of Qi may be affected by a number of factors, such as emotional states, i.e. stress, grief, anger, or other factors such as poor nutrition, hereditary factors, trauma, weather conditions or infection.
Very fine disposable acupuncture needles are inserted at specific points along the channels to alter the balance of the Qi, thus effecting an energetic change to the body and working to restore health and wellbeing.
The aim of acupuncture when treating a person as a whole is to recover the equilibrium between the emotional, physical and mental aspects of the person.
There are no restrictions as to who can have acupuncture, and it can combine well with both western drug therapies as well as other conventional medical treatments.
Acupuncture is effective in the treatment of a wide range of conditions due to the fact that it can stimulate the body’s own healing process. Acupuncture is a part of traditional Chinese medicine which is a medicine system in its own right so can treat many different conditions.
It can be used as a preventative measure when you feel generally ‘run down’ and also when you ‘feel unwell’, but you do not necessarily present with any symptoms – you just know you don’t feel ‘right’. Many patients notice not only changes to the condition they sought help for but also improvements with regard to their energy, confidence and quality of life. Because traditional acupuncture aims to treat the whole person rather than specific symptoms in isolation, it can be effective for a range of conditions. Acupuncturists treat the person, not just the condition which they have, so each patient’s treatment plan will be different. However, you can always ask me about similar patients’ experiences, to give you an idea of what to expect.
The World Health Organisation in 2003 recognised the effectiveness of Acupuncture for treating a range of conditions. For more information click here.
In 2009 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence 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. Sadly this has been withdrawn and a discussion as to why it is a big misunderstanding written by Mel Hopper Koppelmann can be read here. However, NICE in April 2021 has now recommended the use of acupuncture in the management of chronic pain see here.
A few further problems acupuncture can be used for, but not a complete list, are dental pain, nausea and vomiting, short-term relief of the following: tension-type headache, migraine, chronic low back pain, neck pain or chronic neck pain, temporomandibular (TMD/TMJ) pain, overactive bladder syndrome symptoms and osteoarthritis knee pain.
You can get more information on current scientific research into the effectiveness of acupuncture by visiting the British Acupuncture Council site here.
Many people see that needles are used in acupuncture treatment and think that these are the same style of needle as the conventional hypodermic needles used for injections and are subsequently put off by this.
In fact, acupuncture needles are much finer and often you don’t notice them or feel a very slight prick as the needle goes through the skin. You may then experience a dull ache or tingling sensation, which will last for a short while.
All needles used are single use sterile disposable needles, which are very fine, like hairs.
Single use disposable needles of various sizes showing 30mm (Chinese) body acupuncture needles, 15mm (Chinese) body acupuncture needles and 10mm (Korean) auricular needles.
For those who are worried about needles or are too young to have needles, acupressure, magnets or mild electrical stimulation using an Acustim machine may be used.
Acustim pen, magnets standard or gold covered, silver ear pellets (Japanese), tourmaline ear pellets (Korean) and ear magnets gold covered (Chinese).
Cupping uses round glass cups within which a vacuum is created. These are then placed onto the skin in the affected area. The vacuum causes suction which in turn releases the energy that is stuck so that Qi may move properly in the area. It may be used as a massage technique on stiff muscles, but also can be used on points to expel colds or flu.
The technique of moxibustion, often referred to as moxa, is used to heat certain acupuncture points to treat certain conditions. It uses a herb, Artemesia vulgaris (common name Mugwort) which is set alight so that it smoulders. Various types of moxa may be used from moxa punk (the loose moxa) to it being packed into a roll or even mixed with charcoal to look like a cigar to form smokeless moxa.
The moxa is either applied indirectly by placing it on the end of the needle or by holding the cigar shaped moxa near the point, or directly by placing the moxa onto the skin.
Electro-acupuncture involves the use of a low level electrical pulse, which is applied using clips either onto the inserted needles or via self-adhesive electro pads placed directly onto the body. It may be applied from 10 to 30 minutes at a time and helps various complaints, but mainly it is used in pain management.
Diodes & ion pumping chords
Diodes and ion pumping chords are used more in Japanese style acupuncture and may be helpful in various treatments including scar healing.
Point detectors may be electronic or manual. Electronic detectors pick up the changes in electrical potential of the skin and sound a little audible alarm to indicate an acupuncture point. Manual detectors are spring loaded and you may be asked as to which point seems slightly tenderer.
Both styles are used in detecting points on the ear where there may be over 200 points which relate to various parts of the body.
Acupressure & massage techniques
The difference between acupuncture and acupressure is that acupressure is non-invasive, but the same diagnostic systems and principles govern both techniques. Acupressure stimulates acupuncture points using touch (finger pressure) or a very gentle electronic acupuncture pen and is very helpful in treating children.
Conventional massage techniques may be used for the treatment of musculoskeletal problems. Massage helps to prepare the body by softening tense muscles before needling or just used for general relaxation.
The British Acupuncture Council requires its members to have completed and achieved a certain standard of training and qualification in both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medical science. Practitioners must be able to recognise conditions that are best dealt with by or in conjunction with your GP or other specialist.
All practitioners observe strict codes of practice and ethics regarding confidentiality, and the following of strict hygiene procedures.