Some of the most frequently asked questions regarding acupuncture are set out below, but I am always happy to talk to you if you have any further questions.
Who is Acupuncture suitable for?
Acupuncture is used to treat a great variety of conditions in people of all ages. Some have been referred by their doctors, others are looking for a holistic approach to health problems. It is very safe and effective with a history of thousands of years. It is used not only for the treatment of illness but also for the prevention of illness. If you think you may benefit, get in touch and I can advise you. I offer a free initial phone consultation. As with any medical treatment there are a few contraindications for acupuncture, for example use of blood thinners or haemophilia, but I can discuss these with you.
What can I expect to happen on the initial appointment?
The initial consultation lasts 60 minutes and involves diagnosis followed by treatment. A detailed case history will be taken, including mainly your current symptoms, but also your medical and family history, your lifestyle, appetite, sleeping pattern and emotional state. A number of diagnostic methods will be used including tongue examination, pulse taking and a physical examination dependent on the problem being addressed.
A personalised treatment plan is worked out which addresses all aspects of your health and I discuss this with you to get your informed consent. If you are happy to go ahead then your first treatment takes place.
This involves you lying on a couch, the acupuncture points are selected and the needles inserted. The number and location of the needles depends on the treatment plan. Commonly used points are on the forearms and on the legs below the knee, and so can easily be reached if you wear loose clothing. Some conditions require points on the back or abdomen, in which case clothing may have to be removed down to underwear. You will be left in privacy to dress and undress and a cover is provided. The depth of insertion varies with the point on the body, but is often about 6 millimetres.
Each needle may be removed immediately after insertion, or left in place for about 20 minutes, depending on the effect being sought. Most patients find this period very relaxing, some may even fall asleep.
Subsequent treatments take about 45minutes.
What does acupuncture feel like?
Acupuncture needles are very fine and bear little resemblance to the ones used in injections that people are familiar with. Only new sterilised needles are used. They are so fine that they are hardly felt as they go through the skin, just a slight prick. Once the needle reaches the energy pathway or meridian, the patient often feels feels a tingling, dull ache or hot sensation which is short lived - just a second or so. This is regarded as a positive sign that the point has been accurately located. The needles are left in for about 20 minutes, during which time patients often feel very relaxed. Removal of the needles is quick and pain free.
Is acupuncture safe?
Yes - acupuncture is very safe with minimal chance of complication. It is one of the safest therapies in use in the UK. There is a very small chance of tiny bruises around the needling point or of feeling nauseous, which quickly fade.
I follow a strict code of practice, which ensures standards of safety and hygiene, including the use of disposable needles, and have undergone 3 years full time training.
How will I feel after acupuncture?
People respond in different ways. You may feel calm and relaxed; you may feel revitalised; or you may feel drowsy and tired. It is best to plan on taking things easy for a few hours after and not do anything too strenuous. The body needs a little time to adjust to the changes that have taken place.
If you have an acute condition you may well notice an improvement at the time of the treatment. Often though it takes a day or so to notice. You may notice an improvement in your sleep or appetite before your main symptoms improve.
I have private medical insurance - will it cover the cost of my treatment?
Some private health insurance companies cover treatment with acupuncture but you need to check your policy documents carefully to confirm that:
- Acupuncture administered by a BAcC member is covered
- You meet the criteria required (for example, referral by a doctor)
How much treatment will I need?
I can only answer this in general terms as it is dependent on many factors. These include yourself and your general health, the nature of your condition, it's severity and how long you have had it.
Frequency of treatment is usually 1 - 2 sessions per week, depending on symptom severity. Once improvement is seen then the frequency is reduced. Generally a course of treatment is 8 - 10 sessions. Changes should be noticed in 4 - 6 sessions with improvement by the 8th session. Sometimes acute conditions can resolve more quickly, in just a few sessions. Long standing chronic conditions may take longer.
Once you are better, you can, if you wish, use acupuncture as a form of preventive medicine by having a session every few months to support your general health.
Should I tell my doctor?
Yes, it is important to keep your doctor fully informed and not to change the medications you have been prescribed without your doctor's knowledge.
Many patients who seek acupuncture treatment have already consulted their doctor. If you have not then for some conditions I may recommend you do so, as I may not regard acupuncture on its own to be the most appropriate treatment.
Acupuncture can be very effective when used alongside conventional medicine, and can lead to a reduction or even elimination of the need for medication, but this should be done in consultation with your doctor.
Equally you should always tell your acupuncturist of any medication you are taking as this can affect the diagnosis. Also side effects of the medication may be responsible for some of your symptoms.
Will any other therapies be used?
If I think they could be helpful to your condition, I may discuss with you using variants on acupuncture, including moxibustion and cupping. For certain conditions, for example to reduce pain perception, I can also offer hypnotherapy if you wish.
Moxibustion is the burning of a herb just above the surface of your skin. This can be used to make acupuncture more effective by heating the needle. It can also be used to apply warmth to an area of the body, such as the lower back, using a cigar shaped stick. The herb burns slowly with a pleasant smell.
Cupping involves creating a vacuum within a cup and applying the cup to the skin so that a sucking sensation is felt. This is often used on the back.
Do you charge a 'no show' fee?
A condition of booking is that if an appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours notice then the treatment will be charged in full.
Is all information and personal detail kept confidential?