Acupuncture can be used to treat an enormous variety of conditions from sporting injuries to digestive upsets or even the common cold. Anyone from newborns to the elderly can benefit from a course of treatment. Acupuncture is a very safe and effective form of medicine with a history of many thousands of years. It can be used not only for the treatment of conditions or illnesses but also to help keep you well and prevent illness taking hold.
It is better to avoid drinking coffee or eating a large meal immediately prior to acupuncture but don’t arrive at the clinic feeling really hungry, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Chinese Medicine is a wholistic treatment and your practitioner will take an extensive case history, covering every aspect of your health, diet and lifestyle before making a diagnosis. This may include asking seemingly unrelated questions about such things as your response to changes in the weather, your menstrual cycle even if the condition you are attending for is not related to your cycle or whether you sleep with your feet out from under the blankets! Your answers will help identify patterns of disharmony which will allow your practitioner to make a more accurate diagnosis. Your practitioner will also take your pulse on both wrists and may ask to look at your tongue as both provide valuable information about your constitution and presenting condition.
After making a diagnosis your practitioner will decide the appropriate treatment. This may be acupuncture or Chinese herbs separately or in combination or may include the use of moxibustion, tui-na, or gua sha. Your practitioner may also make recommendations regarding your diet and lifestyle.
In comparison to needles which are used for an injection or to take blood, acupuncture needles are very fine – not much thicker than a human hair. A typical treatment will involve the insertion of 8-10 acupuncture needles into points which may be selected either close to the affected area or as far away from it as possible. The needles must stay in place for approximately 20-25 minutes, during which time most people drift into a state of deep relaxation or may even go to sleep.
Most new patients are amazed how painless acupuncture is – the thought is worse than the reality. When the correct stimulus of the needle has been obtained and the Qi has been activated, the patient may feel some heaviness, distension, tingling or electric sensation either around the needle or traveling up or down the affected energy pathway or meridian.
Energetic changes in the body will continue for some time after the needles have been removed so it is preferable to avoid any strenuous activity immediately after treatment. To avoid undoing the effects of the treatment it is also better not to consume any alcohol or recreational drugs.
Depending on the type of treatment you have received, you may feel very relaxed and calm or you may feel revitalized and more clear-headed. It is not unusual to feel like resting after a treatment and occasionally your symptoms may flare for a short time before settling. Generally the effects of the treatment will be more obvious the following day.
Yes – it is possible that a course of acupuncture may reduce your need for some medications so it is essential that your GP is aware that you are receiving treatment. Most medical doctors are supportive of acupuncture treatment and it is better for you if all your healthcare practitioners are able to work together.
Yes – when taking your history, your practitioner will ask you about any medication you are taking. Many pharmaceutical drugs have noticeable effects on the pulse and as this is one of the diagnostic tools used by your acupuncturist, it is important that they are aware of your medications. It is also possible that some of your symptoms are side effects of the medication you are taking and it helpful for your practitioner to be alerted to this.
It is very important to continue your medication. There can be serious consequences from suddenly stopping some pharmaceutical drugs. Whilst it is possible to use acupuncture to reduce the need for some medications, this should only be done in full consultation with your GP.
Acupuncture is extremely safe when practiced by a qualified practitioner. After four years of full time training, licensed Acupuncture practitioner have an in-depth knowledge of Chinese Medicine and the meridian system as well as anatomy and physiology from a Western medical perspective.
Occasionally a small bruise may occur at the site of the needle insertion but this is not usually painful and will clear in a few days.
Generally a course of treatment is accepted as being 8-10 individual sessions. Very commonly your condition may resolve in fewer than this, but if it is a long standing condition then it would not be unexpected to require considerably more. Initially you may be asked to attend for treatment two or three times a week, and then as symptoms improve, weekly treatment would be likely. Your first appointment may last for close to an hour but subsequent visits may only take 30 or 45 minutes.
Acupuncture is just one aspect of Chinese Medicine. A typical treatment may also include the use of moxibustion (the burning of a herb close to acupuncture points or on the needles), gua sha (scraping of the skin to cause slight redness), tui na (a form of massage) or cupping (the application of vacuum cups to the skin, most commonly used on the back). Your practitioner may also give you Chinese herbs to take. These are traditionally prescribed as dry herbs which are to be boiled with water. In more recent years herbs are becoming more available as freeze dried granules, pills or capsules which are very easy to take.
Most acupuncture practitioners will ask you to complete an information sheet on your first visit. The questions asked will cover basic information such as your name, address and age, the reason for your visit and how long the condition has been present. They will also ask about any medication you may be taking and whether or not you have had any surgery, even if it is not specifically related to the reason for your visit.
You should also advise the practitioner of any of the following conditions:
- Bleeding disorders
- Any form of cancer
- Epilepsy or seizures
- Skin infections
- Heart conditions – especially if you have had a pacemaker inserted.