What Happens during the visit?
Your first visit will usually last between one hour and one and a half hour (depending on the complexity of your medical history); subsequently, visits will last approximately one hour. During the first consultation you will be asked various questions, some relating directly to your condition (current symptoms, what treatment you have received, your medical history), some others regarding your perception of your energy level, diet, digestion, sleeping patterns and emotional life.
Before each treatment a postural assessment will be carried out alongside the palpation of the abdomen and relevant acupuncture points. Your tongue will be carefully examined and finally your pulses on both wrists will be taken. A small number of extremely fine needles (0.16 to 0.25 mm in diameter) is used. Their insertion is gentle and usually no pain is experienced. The needles are left in place for approximately 20 minutes during which time your pulse will be checked to assess your response to the therapy. When the needles are removed and disposed of, in order to enhance the treatment and help you take active part in the healing process, you may also be given after-care advice such as massaging certain points, using specific foods for their therapeutic value, or other complaint specific things. Your treatment may also include other therapeutic modalities:
an herb (Artemisia vulgaris) that is burned either on a needle or used to warm certain areas or points
a vacuum is created inside a glass cup and then it is placed on different parts of the body. It may stay in one place or be moved over an area (most commonly your back)
Active and passive body manipulation as well as massage may be used to enhance the action of certain points combinations.
What to do before and after the treatment?
Acupuncture treatments affect the way qi 氣 (that is all your physiological processes in your body) moves and behave; therefore, it is advisable to avoid a full meal as well as coffee, alcohol, sugar and greasy foods at least from one hour before and until one hour after the treatment. In order to enhance the effectiveness of your treatment, on the day of your visit, it would be better not to exert too much (physically and mentally).
How many sessions are required?
Frequency and length of treatment depend on individual conditions. As a general guideline chronic (long term) conditions will need more sessions and less frequently; acute (more recent) problems will require fewer sessions and more frequently. In both scenarios a course of treatments (from five to ten) is usually required. Sometimes the outcomes is almost immediate, other times the changes may take long to manifest. Some frequent comments at the end of an acupuncture session are: “I feel better in myself”, “I feel very relaxed” or “I feel lighter”. What most of these comments mean is simply that a better energy level has been achieved and this in turn leads to better mood, sleep and appetite. Once the main complaint has been addressed some patients decide, as a preventive measure, to keep receiving treatments every six weeks or before season changes (every three months).
Is it safe if I’m receiving medical treatment?
It is safe to receive acupuncture while undergoing medical treatment, and it is a good idea to inform your doctor/consultant about it. Conversely, you should always tell your acupuncturist about any medication you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment. Many people ask for acupuncture in order to reduce the unpleasant side effects of the medications they have been prescribed (often the ones that are keeping their conditions under control) or because those medications are not working as expected. Many patients report that with acupuncture they are able to reduce their drug intake; however, the decision to change a pharmacological prescription can only be taken in agreement with the professional (GP or consultant) who gave the prescription in the first place.
Is acupuncture safe?
Two surveys published in the British Medical Journal report that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000 (much less than most medical treatments). On a total of 66,000 treatments reviewed only a few minor and short-lasting side effects were recorded. When acupuncture is practised by a fully qualified practitioner mild side effects that might occur include tiredness or mild dizziness, minor bruising and aches around needled acupoints. Unlike other forms of medical intervention there is no risk of dependency with acupuncture. Risks of cross infections are negligible since all needles are presterilised, disposable and for use on one patient only. Strict standards of practice designed by the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) and approved by the Department of Health are enforced to ensure exemplary professional standards.
Are you a qualified acupuncturist?
I am a member of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC). The BAcC is a registering body for professional acupuncturists.
- All members of the BAcC can offer you the following assurances:
- BSc or BA degree level training or its equivalent in traditional acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and western biomedical sciences including anatomy, physiology and pathology (3,600 hours of study)
- compliance with current UK health and safety legislation
- full medical malpractice and public/products liability insurance cover
- expert practice skills maintained by following a mandatory individual programme of continuing professional development (CPD)
- regular updates from the BAcC regarding practitioners’ professional obligations to the public
- compliance with BAcC Code of Safe Practice and Code of Professional Conduct
- patient access to the BAcC complaints and disciplinary procedures
- English language skills at least equivalent to those required of doctors and nurses working in the UK
Acupuncturists registered with the BAcC carry the letters MBAcC after their name. Further information about my qualifications in the section about myself.