How many sessions will I need?
That depends on your individual condition. After your first treatment I may need to see you after a week or fortnight to assess your progress and discuss the way forward with you. You may start to feel benefits after the first or second treatment, although long-standing health conditions may need more time to improve. Once your health has stabilised you may need top-up treatments. Acupuncture is also very effective when used as preventive healthcare and many people like to come back 3 or 4 times during the year, as the seasons change.
What should I do before a 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. Also you may need to lie on your stomach during a treatment.
Avoid alcohol and also food or drink that colours your tongue, such as coffee or strong tea.
What should I wear to come for acupuncture?
It is a good idea to wear loose-fitting clothes so that the acupuncture points, especially those around your knees and on your lower limbs, are more easily accessible. Many commonly used acupuncture points are located on the lower arms and legs, as well as on the back and abdomen areas, so it's helpful to wear loose clothing that allows easy access to these areas.
What happens during my first consultation and treatment session?
Your first consultation will be longer than follow-up visits. It takes up to 80 minutes and enables me to gain a detailed understanding of your health condition, diet and lifestyle. This involves asking you questions about your current symptoms, medical history and any medication or supplements you are taking, as well as such things as your sleeping pattern, appetite and digestion and your emotional wellbeing. If you are a woman, I will also ask you about your menstrual cycle and any past pregnancies and childbirth; also about your menopause, if appropriate.
I'll look at your tongue, take your pulse on both wrists and examine you physically to assist in making a diagnosis and putting together your treatment plan. If you need to undress to your underwear for acupuncture, to protect your privacy I'll leave the room for you to undress and dress again at the end of treatment. You'll be covered with a towel when lying on the couch during your acupuncture treatment.
What do follow-up sessions involve?
Follow-up sessions last up to an hour. Before treating you I'll check on your current level of health and wellbeing and whether this has changed since the last treatment session, examine your tongue and take your pulse on both wrists. Depending on the nature of your health issue, I may also need to feel for areas of muscular tension or pain.
What does acupuncture feel like?
I'll be using very fine, single-use pre-sterilised needles to stimulate specific acupuncture points on your body. Since energy pathways are spread across the whole body, the points used are not necessarily close to where you may be experiencing pain or discomfort. For example, to treat you for headaches, I may insert needles in your foot or leg.
Most people find acupuncture very relaxing and a number of them fall asleep on the couch. Patients often describe the needle sensation as a tingling, dull ache or heavy sensation. In Chinese Medicine this is viewed as one of the signs the body's Qi, or vital energy, has been stimulated.
How will I feel after a treatment?
Most people feel relaxed and often feel very calm after acupuncture. If the treatment has been particularly strong, you may feel tired or drowsy and it is worth bearing this in mind if you plan to drive, or use any other machinery straight after your treatment.
You should avoid vigorous exercise straight after acupuncture and, ideally, give yourself a little time to rest. Its also advisable not to drink alcohol for several hours afterwards and a good idea to drink some water to keep yourself well hydrated.
Are there any unpleasant side effects?
Acupuncture has virtually no unpleasant side effects. Any that do occur are mild and self-correcting. Occasionally there may be minor bleeding or bruising at the needle point, or a short-term flare-up of your symptoms as your Qi clears and resettles. I provide all new patients with a British Acupuncture Council aftercare leaflet, which explains this information in more detail.
Should I tell my doctor that I’m having acupuncture?
If you're currently receiving treatment from your doctor, it's sensible to mention that you plan to have acupuncture. I'll need to know about any medication you are taking, as this may affect your response to acupuncture.
Should I still take my prescribed medication during a course of acupuncture?
Yes, definitely. Acupuncture 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 medical guidance.
I have private medical insurance – will it cover the cost of my treatment?
That depends on your insurer. As the demand for complementary medicine increases, more private health insurance companies are starting to offer cover for traditional acupuncture. You should check your individual policy details and I will provide you with invoices for your acupuncture treatment, on request.
Can I donate blood after having acupuncture treatment?
In 2009 the National Health Blood Transfusion Service (NHBTS) adopted new European criteria for donor selection. This policy means that patients who have acupuncture therapy with a British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) member are not allowed to give blood for four months. The BAcC is working with the government and NHBTS to resolve this issue and I'll provide updated information as it becomes available.