Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture and Microsystems Auricular Acupuncture

What is acupuncture?

Traditional acupuncture is a healthcare system based on ancient principles which go back nearly two thousand years. Acupuncturists are trained to use subtle diagnostic techniques that have been developed and refined for centuries. The focus is on the individual, not their illness, and all the symptoms are seen in relation to each other. Each patient is unique; two people with the same western diagnosis may well receive different acupuncture treatments. Acupuncturists believe that the principle of treatment is that illness and pain occur when the body's qi, or vital energy, cannot flow freely. There can be many reasons for this; emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, infection or injury are among the most common. By inserting ultra-fine sterile needles into specific acupuncture points, an acupuncturist seeks to re-establish the free flow of qi to restore balance and trigger the body's natural healing response. A growing body of evidence-based clinical research shows that traditional acupuncture safely treats a wide range of common health problems.

Safety

Acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments on offer in the UK. Surveys published in the British Medical Journal concluded that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. This is far less than many orthodox medical treatments. In another 66,000 treatments were reviewed altogether, with only a handful of minor and transient side effects recorded. There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practised by a fully qualified practitioner of traditional acupuncture. Any minor side effects that do occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are mild and self-correcting.

What to expect from a treatment

Before having acupuncture treatment

Before your first acupuncture session there are several things you should bear in mind: Many commonly used acupuncture points are located on the lower arms and legs, so it is helpful to wear clothing that allows easy access to these areas, try not to go for treatment on an empty stomach or straight after a heavy meal.

Your first consultation

During your first visit your acupuncturist needs to gain a thorough understanding of your main complaint and your general health and lifestyle. This involves asking questions about your current symptoms and your medical history, as well as such things as your sleeping pattern, your appetite and digestion, and your emotional wellbeing. Women are also asked about their menstrual cycle and any past pregnancies and childbirth. Your acupuncturist will also take your pulse on both wrists and may examine your tongue and feel for areas of muscular tension or pain. In order to make a diagnosis according to traditional Chinese medicine theory and to find the right treatment approach, the practitioner will also want to know more specific details. All data taken during the consultation and subsequent treatments is are subject to practitioner/ patient confidentiality, and not passed to any other parties.

Treatment plan and treatment

Based on all the information you have given, the practitioner will make a diagnosis and put together your treatment plan, which may include lifestyle and dietary advice as well as acupuncture. Your practitioner will use very fine single-use pre-sterilised needles to stimulate specific acupuncture points on your body. Because energy meridians range across the whole body, the points used are not necessarily close to where you experience pain or discomfort. For example, if you suffer from headaches needles might be inserted in your foot or hand.

Techniques

As well as needling acupuncture points, a traditional acupuncturist may use other Chinese medicine techniques such as:

Moxibustion

Heat is applied to an acupuncture point or meridian using moxa (a therapeutic herb) and/or heat lamps to warm and relax muscles and qi

Tuina

Chinese therapeutic massage relieves muscle tension, stimulates acupressure points, opens energy meridians and stimulate the flow of qi

Cupping

glass cups with a vacuum seal are placed on the skin to stimulate blood flow and clear stagnant qi.

After-effects

Most people find acupuncture relaxing and often feel very calm after a treatment. You may feel a little tired or sleepy and should take this into account. You should refrain from vigorous exercise after treatment and, ideally, give yourself a little time to rest. It is also advisable not to drink alcohol for several hours after treatment. Acupuncture has very few side effects and any that do occur are usually mild and self-correcting. Cupping and needles can sometimes temporarily mark the skin. Such bruising is painless and generally clears within a day or two.

What can acupuncture treat?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides guidelines for the NHS on the use of treatments and care of patients. Currently, NICE recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for:
• persistent lower back pain
• chronic tension-type headaches
• migraines

However World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest it can also treat:
• chronic pain, such as arthritis
• joint pain
• dental pain
• postoperative pain
• postoperative nausea and vomiting
• allergies, including hay fever
• eczema
• fatigue, including fatigue in cancer patients after chemotherapy
• depression and anxiety
• digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• infertility and menstrual disorders
• insomnia
• stopping smoking
• appetite suppression