The consultation lasts for approx 90 minutes and includes treatment at the end. The nature of your symptoms are discussed as well as your health in general (sleep, appetite, digestion, bowel movements etc) and then some time is spent discussing how you are coping with life in general and whether you are under any particular strains or stresses. A pulse and tongue examination is completed before treatment begins. During treatment, channels are selected to treat the underlying patterns of disharmony which are causing you your health problem.
Needle insertion is guided using a plastic tube which desensitizes the skin so often people don't even feel the needle going in. The needles used for acupuncture bear no resemblance to those used in injections and blood tests and are very fine. When inserted, the sensation is often described as tingling or a dull ache. Other sensations such as 'tugging' or 'pulling' have also been described. Needles are inserted either for a few seconds and then rotated or left in place for up to 20-30 minutes, depending on the effect required. During treatment, patients commonly experience a heaviness in their limbs and a pleasant feeling of relaxation and calm. Some people fall asleep and snore!
Acupuncture has virtually no unpleasant side effects. Occasionally there may be minor bruising where the needle has been inserted or a short-term flare-up of your symptoms as your qi clears and resettles.
After treatment people usually feel more relaxed and calm and experience an improvement in the symptom they are receiving acupuncture treatment for. If it is possible, it's good to rest after the session for a couple of hours and avoid doing anything stressful or demanding.
A lot of people who have a course of acupuncture treatment also experience other positive benefits:
- Improved sleep
- Better appetite
- Increased energy levels and vitality
- Feeling more relaxed and confident
- Feeling better able to cope with life's challenges
A course of treatment is usually between 4-6 treatments on a weekly basis with follow up sessions more spaced out if further support is required. With chronic health problems where symptoms have persisted for a long time, improvement will be more gradual and more treatment will be needed. Generally, a person receiving acupuncture treatment will feel better as they progress through the course of treatment, and sometimes improvement isn't always immediate but after a couple of treatments.
As a gentle and holistic treatment, it is suitable for all ages including babies, children and the very elderly and can be used safely alongside conventional medicine.
Many people come for acupuncture to help with specific conditions eg migraine (see page on health problems acupuncture can help). Others come because they want to increase their overall energy levels or to improve their sense of well being. Some people might come because for sometime they haven't been feeling great in themselves, are finding life a struggle and are having trouble identifying the cause.
As a member of the British Acupuncture Council I observe the Code of Safe Practise which defines the hygiene and safety standards relating to the practise of acupuncture. The Code of Safe Practise is available for download from the British Acupuncture Council website. The procedures have been approved by the Department of Health, and provide protection against the transmission of infectious diseases.
In respect of needles, I again observe the Code of safe practise and use single use pre-sterilised disposable needles, which are disposed of after each treatment.
Many private health insurance policies now cover different complementary health treatments including acupuncture. It is wise however to check the criteria that must be met for reimbursement.
If you are currently seeing your doctor about a health problem and have decided to start acupuncture treatment for the same problem then it makes sense to let your doctor know. If you are currently on prescribed medication for your symptoms, acupuncture treatment may enable you to reduce or even stop taking some forms of medication. However, your doctor should always be consulted regarding any change in prescription eg lowering the dose. Do not stop taking medication without your doctor's consent.
You can continue taking your medication alongside having acupuncture. Sometimes treatment may enable you to reduce or even stop taking some forms of medication but you should always consult your GP regarding any changes in prescription eg lowering the dose. Do not stop taking medication without your GP's knowledge.