What Is Acupuncture?
Traditional Acupuncture is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is one of the longest established systems of healthcare in the world. It originated in China over 3,000 years ago and is now widely practiced across the globe.
Acupuncture uses a holistic approach and can fill a need in today’s health crisis. It is rooted in a complete medical model with a strong philosophical background and sees pain and illness as a sign the body is out of balance.
The main focus of acupuncture then is to restore the body’s equilibrium having a focus on the individual rather than an isolated complaint while taking into account the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the patient making it perfectly suitable for modern needs.
In a treatment traditional diagnosis techniques are used such as questioning, observing the tongue, taking the pulse and various palpation techniques to form a diagnosis and treatment plan specifically for that individual patient. Fine needles are then inserted at chosen points on the body to stimulate the body’s own healing response and restore its natural balance.
Other techniques maybe included into the treatment such as Tui Na massage, cupping, Gua Sha and moxibustion.
Your Acupuncture Treatment
Your initial consultation usually lasts up to 90 minutes and will involve the taking of a full case history where you will be asked about your main complaint, what treatment you have received, your medical history, your diet, digestive system, sleeping patterns and your emotional state.
A physical examination will also be assessed which will include palpation of the abdomen and other reflex areas. The pulses on both wrists will be taken and your tongue examined. I will also check posture and joint examinations if appropriate. This initial session is in order for me to complete a full diagnosis from an acupuncture perspective and devise a treatment plan.
You will also be free to ask any questions and discuss your treatment options and goals.
A full acupuncture treatment is included in the initial consultation.
Follow Up Treatments
Each subsequence treatment will last 45-60 minutes and will involve time to discuss your progress of treatment and your treatment plan. Further examinations may be taken, especially palpating abdominal reflexes and taking your pulse before treatment begins.
Treatment will usually be weekly at first unless an acute condition. It is difficult to say how many treatments will be needed as it is very individual, however most people start to feel improvement during the first 4 -6 treatments.
Once the initial complaint has been treated some patients like to come on a more regular basis and often find a period of time between treatments that suit them, usually one treatment every 4 – 6 weeks.
These types of treatments can be thought of ‘tune-ups’ and just as we get regular maintenance on our cars, our bodies need regular maintenance to keep them healthy, too. As our body is always adapting to stress, dietary effect and over work, our body is working to create harmony and balance. If these factors are too much for our bodies then illness and symptoms can occur.
Regular maintenance treatment assists our body to function better and can be used as a preventive measure. Acupuncture can also be deeply relaxing and many patients find regular maintenance treatment beneficial for stress relief.
Q.How many sessions will I need?
That depends on your individual condition. At first your acupuncturist will normally ask to see you once or twice a week, depending on how chronic or acute your symptoms are. You may start to feel benefits after the first or second treatment, although long-standing and chronic conditions usually need more time to improve. Once your health has stabilised you may need top-up treatments every few weeks. Acupuncture is also very effective when used as preventative healthcare and many people like to go for a ‘retuning’ session at the change of each season throughout the year.
Q.What does it feel like?
Most people find acupuncture to be very relaxing. Patients often describe the needle sensation as a tingling or dull ache. This is one of the signs that the body’s qi, or vital energy, has been stimulated.
Q.I’m scared of needles – can I still have acupuncture?
Yes. Acupuncture needles are very much finer that the needles used for injections and blood tests. You may not even feel them penetrate the skin and once in place they are hardly noticeable, however if the thought of needles really puts you off having treatment there are other options like Physiokey therpay, Tui Na massage, cupping and moxa.
Q.What should I do before treatment?
Try not to have a large meal within an hour of your appointment, as the process of digestion will alter the pattern of your pulse, and you may need to lie on your stomach. You should also avoid alcohol and food or drink that colours your tongue such as coffee or strong tea. It is a good idea to wear loose-fitting clothes so that the acupuncture points, especially those on your legs, are easily accessible.
Q.How will I feel after treatment?
You are likely to feel relaxed and calm. If the treatment has been particularly strong you may feel tired or drowsy and it is worth bearing in mind if you plan to drive or use any other machinery soon afterwards.
Q.Are there any unpleasant side-effects?
Acupuncture has virtually no unpleasant side effects, and any that do occur are mild and self-correcting. Occasionally there may be minor bruising at the needle point or short-term flare-up of your symptoms as your qi clears and resettles.
Q.Should I tell my doctor that I’m having acupuncture?
If you are currently receiving treatment from your doctor it is sensible to mention that you plan to have acupuncture. Your acupuncturist will need to know about any medication you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment.
Q.Should I still take my prescribed medication whilst having a course of acupuncture?
Yes. The acupuncture treatment may enable you to reduce or even stop taking some forms of medication, but you should always consult your doctor regarding any change of prescription. DO NOT stop taking medication without professional guidance.
Q.I have private medical insurance – will it cover the cost of my treatment?
That depends upon your insurer. As the demand for complementary medicine increases more private health insurance companies are beginning to offer cover for traditional acupuncture. You should check your individual policy details.