What is it?
Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of medicine which has been used for thousands of years to restore and maintain good health. Today acupuncture is widely accepted and being used by many people as an effective solution for a huge array of illnesses from stress and anxiety to pain and stiffness of the joints.
Acupuncture aims to maintain the body's equilibrium by focusing on all aspects of wellbeing - physical, psychological and emotional.
According to traditional Chinese philosophy, good health is dependent on Qi (the body's energy) moving in a smooth and balanced way through a series of meridians. These meridians exist just beneath the skin and permeate the entire body to connect to internal organs, muscles and blood vessels to create a fully functioning system. Along each meridian is a series of acupuncture points which are stimulated using ultra fine needles.
The flow of Qi can be disturbed by any number of factors such as infection, trauma, poor diet, overwork and emotional issues such as anger and grief. When the Qi is unbalanced, illness results.
The acupuncturist inserts ultra fine disposable needles at chosen points along the acupuncture channels. The aim is to stimulate the body's own healing response and restore its natural balance. Acupuncture treatment works on the root cause of a person's health issue, as well as the symptoms. This approach can lead to a more permanent resolution of the condition.
How many sessions will I need?
Patients respond to acupuncture at different rates, depending on the severity and the duration of the illness. Frequency and length of treatment depends very much on your individual condition. Some change is usually felt after six treatments, although sometimes after only one or two sessions. Some patients may need treatment over several months or long-term especially in the context of chronic conditions or pain management. You will normally be asked to come once a week for the first month.
After symptoms have resolved many patients choose to have a regular tune up each season, to maintain their health or they may return for a couple of treatments if they feel their symptoms returning.
What does it feel like?
Acupuncture needles are much finer than needles used for injections and blood tests – they are about the same width as a human hair. When the needle is inserted, the sensation is often described as a tingling or dull ache.
How can it help me?
Many people come to acupuncture for help with specific symptoms or to relieve specific pains like osteoarthritis of the knee. Others choose to have treatment to help maintain good health, as a preventive measure, or simply to improve their general sense of wellbeing. Because traditional acupuncture aims to treat the whole person rather than specific symptoms in isolation, it can be effective for a range of conditions.
Remember that 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 your practitioner about other patients’ experiences, to give you an idea of what to expect. Many people return to acupuncture again and again because they find it so beneficial and relaxing.
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.
Acupuncture is considered suitable for all ages including babies and children. It can be used effectively alongside conventional medicine such as massage, osteopathic and chiropractic treatment.
You can get more information on current scientific research into the effectiveness of acupuncture by visiting www.acupuncture.org.uk or by speaking to a BAcC registered acupuncturist.
"I had been suffering from extreme anxiety and agoraphobia for over a year. I tried lots of different therapies but none really helped. I went to see Angela for acupuncture and within just a few treatments my symptoms had almost disappeared. Now I live a full life with my family and I don't have any anxiety problems."- Patient
Should my doctor know?
If you have been prescribed medication it makes sense to tell your doctor that you are planning to have acupuncture. You should always tell your acupuncturist about any medication you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture may also be used to reduce the amount of or stop certain medications/drugs being used. This process should involve your doctor.
Is it safe?
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. The needles used are single-use, sterile, and disposable. Responses to treatment can sometimes include tiredness or mild dizziness, and very occasionally minor bruising may occur. However, all such reactions are short-lived.