Frequently Asked Questions

Traditional Acupuncture head with chinese characters and numbers

How often will I need treatment?

In acupuncture theory, everyone is considered to be unique and therefore the number of treatments required varies depending on the individual patient and what it is they want to achieve. Initially, I recommend that you visit once or twice a week, although some conditions/situations may need more or less frequent attention.

Sometimes the effects of treatment are dramatic and one or two treatments are enough to get people back on track. With other patients, the effects are more subtle and they may need treatment over a longer period. Individuals may also seek treatment as a preventative measure. In this instance, after the initial few sessions, treatment will spread out over longer periods and these treatments will often be seasonal.

I advise patients that they should anticipate coming for at least 6 treatments over a 4-6 week period initially. By the end of this period, most patients have a good idea whether acupuncture is moving them forward and together we can decide on the next appropriate step.

What does acupuncture feel like?

When someone mentions needles, most people tend to think of those used in injections and blood tests. Acupuncture needles bear little resemblance to these. They are much, much finer and are solid rather than hollow. Just to give you an idea of how fine they are, you can tie an acupuncture needle in a knot and my Dad needs a magnifying glass to be able to even see them!

The needles are either inserted for a second or two and then removed or left in place for 5-20 minutes, depending on the desired effect. Patients describe the sensations differently - the most common is that of a tingling or dull ache when a point is stimulated and the feeling then quickly fades.

Does it hurt?

Most of the time patients feel little to nothing when having acupuncture. However, everyone is different and I would be lying if I tried to guarantee that every patient feels no pain whatsoever. On occasion it can be painful, however it is still nothing in comparison to the pain of hypodermic needles used in injections or when giving blood.

If you are concerned about the needles, acupressure can be used to achieve similar results in most situations, so don't let fear of needles put you off coming along for a chat to see if acupuncture can help you.

What will happen on my first visit?

Your first consultation may well be longer than subsequent sessions. This session is an opportunity for you to voice any concerns about your health and not only physical strains, but mental and emotional ones as well. I need to assess your general state of health in order to identify any underlying patterns of disharmony. I will ask you about your current symptoms and what treatment, if any, you have already received, your medical history and that of your close family, your diet, digestive system, sleeping patterns and emotional state.

To discover how the energy (Qi) in your body is flowing I will feel your pulses on both wrists, noting their quality, rhythm and strength. I will look at the colour, structure and coating of your tongue to give indicators of your physical health. I will palpate specific acupuncture points and channels to diagnose any deficiency. I will palpate your abdomen for points of discomfort and feel for temperature differences on your torso and back to find areas of stagnation. Once I have gathered enough information to determine the likely causes of your problems, I can create a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs.

There are around 500 recognised acupuncture points on the body, of which about 100 are commonly used. Stimulation of specific points affect the function of certain organs or areas of the body. However, the points selected may not always be close to the part of the body where the problem is experienced. For example, although you may suffer with headaches, needles may be inserted in your foot or hand.

Other Techniques

The treatment of specific points or areas may be supplemented with different techniques:

What is Moxibustion?

Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort - a small, spongy herb - on specific acupuncture points to facilitate healing. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. It is used to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of Qi, and maintain general health.

What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is a healing technique used throughout Asia. It is a form of massage that uses a flat edged tool to release muscle tension and promote the movement of blood and Qi in an area.

What is Cupping?

Cupping is a technique used around the world in many different traditions. A vacuum is created inside a clean glass cup, which is placed on the skin to release toxins and promote the movement of Qi and blood around the body.

Do I need to be ill to come for treatment?

Absolutely not. Acupuncture is first and foremost a preventative medicine. Some people like to come for treatment to deal with a particular issue, physical or emotional, and once that is sorted they stop coming. However other people choose to use acupuncture as a way to keep themselves well. In this instance, treatment is about helping people maintain the balance and harmony of body, mind and spirit through the ups and downs of life. They use acupuncture to move towards a better understanding of the factors that inhibit them from being all they can be and gain a deeper understanding of how they can better live in harmony with nature. Treatment is often spaced so that patients come in seasonally or just when they recognise that they have gone a little off track and need a hand to get back on their path.

Should I tell my doctor that I am coming for acupuncture?

You are not obliged to tell your GP that you are receiving acupuncture. However, if you are having treatment from your doctor, it makes sense to tell him or her what's going on. The acupuncture may enable you to reduce or even stop taking some forms of medication, but your doctor should always be consulted regarding any change of prescription.

You should always tell your acupuncturist about any medication you are taking as it may affect your response to treatment.