Acupuncture is a branch of traditional medicine that has been practised in China and the far east for thousands of years. It has been developed, tested, researched and refined over this time into a treatment option accessed by increasing numbers of patients in the West. Without the benefit of modern scientific equipment, the first acupuncturists discovered many now familiar aspects of biomedical science.
A growing body of evidence-based clinical research is discovering how the body responds to acupuncture and its benefits for a wide range of common health conditions. Many people have acupuncture to relieve specific aches and pains such as osteoarthritis of the knee, TMJ pain, headaches and low back pain, or for common health problems like an overactive bladder.
Other people choose acupuncture when they can feel their bodily functions are out of balance but have no obvious western medical diagnosis leading to western medical treatment. Many also have regular treatments simply because they find it beneficial and relaxing.
The focus for a traditional acupuncturist is on the patient as an individual and not just their specific illness, and all symptoms are seen as part of an interconnected pattern.
Treatment involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points which are said to affect the flow of your body’s qi, or vital energy, although there is ongoing research and study that suggests what many practitioners already know: that inserting needles into the channels (or meridians) affects change within the human body, and the term ‘energy’ is rather simplistic.
What to expect from your treatment
What happens when you come for treatment?
Your initial visit will take up to an hour and a half and consists of a personal and medical consultation covering your family history, lifestyle, systems functions (eg. sleep, appetite) and full details of your current complaint/s and any test or investigations that you have had. You will also have the opportunity to discuss in complete confidence any concerns or troubles you may currently be dealing with.
After your consultation I will carry out a number of short non invasive physical diagnostic tests including blood pressure, temperature distribution and pulse taking. In most cases, aside from the most complex, this is then followed by your first treatment. Subsequent appointments take up to three quarters of an hour, and include discussion of your progress and your treatment to date.
What does it feel like?
Many patients are concerned that acupuncture maybe painful but as the needles are flexible and about as thick as two human hairs there is usually only a very slight sensation as it enters the skin. Sometimes patients also feel a dull ache on the acupuncture point but this also only lasts for a few seconds and is generally not considered to be uncomfortable. Many find acupuncture relaxing and feel very calm after a treatment; you may also feel a little tired or sleepy so if possible, try to arrange for your first session for a relatively restful and quiet day.
Is it safe?
Acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments currently on offer in the UK, in fact in 2001 a number of studies concluded that the risk of serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. Any minor side effects that do occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are infrequent, mild and self-correcting. To see more information regarding the safety of acupuncture please visit the British Acupuncture Council’s website.
What’s the research?
There has been a great deal of research into the efficacy of acupuncture over the last few years, so in order to help sift ‘fact from fiction’ the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) have compiled a selection of fact sheets which provide accurate and unbiased general information for a variety of conditions. Clicking on the links below will allow you to access information on:
Over the years, the British Acupuncture Council has done an excellent job of working through the swathes of research into the efficacy of acupuncture. In order to keep you informed on the facts, you’ll find detailed information here.