Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine that works by inserting very thin needles at specific points in your body.
These acupuncture needles are believed to stimulate the body’s natural life force, and thereby promote its healing function. Different points are said to have a variety of effects such as improving organ functions, nourishing blood, smoothing the flow of qi, and calming the mind.
At your first appointment, your acupuncture practitioner will perform a thorough investigation and then tailor their plan to your specific needs. Treatment will seek to address your fundamental well-being in addition to any symptoms that might be present.
Scientific evidence for the benefits of acupuncture is growing exponentially and, in the past twenty years, there have been over 13,000 studies conducted in 60 countries. A wide variety of areas have been studied, including pain, cancer, pregnancy, stroke, mood disorders, sleep disorders, and inflammation, to name a few.
We will start with a general assessment of your health which will include:
Prior to treatment I will discuss my initial findings with you, and explain where I intend to insert needles. With your consent, I will then begin to insert the needles as discussed.
If ancillary treatments such as guasha or cupping are needed, these will be performed before any needles are placed. When the acupuncture needles are in, they will be left for 10 to 20 minutes. This is a good opportunity to apply moxa if it is needed. Then, at the end of treatment, acu-points may be stimulated with needles that are removed as soon as their effect is felt.
When your treatment is finished, all needles will be removed and disposed of hygienically.
I will also advise when to book a follow-up appointment in line with your treatment plan.
I am always happy to offer a complementary consultation over the phone, or you can book a time to come and visit me in the clinic. If you’re in Bristol and not sure if acupuncture is right for you, I am here to answer any and all of your questions.
Please click below to read more about the supplementary acupuncture treatment methods that might be used at our Bristol clinic.
Tuina massage is a branch of Chinese Medicine in its own right, but can also be used to complement the effects of acupuncture treatment. I may place needles in the required points then apply tuina massage in another area, or I may start with tuina massage and follow with acupuncture needles that build on this treatment.
For clients who are very susceptible to cold or who feel particularly tired, I may apply small cones of prepared moxa herb to some of the acupuncture points or to needles inserted into those points. This herb is lit and left to smoulder so that it can transmit its heat directly into your body. This can be a very warming form of treatment, and many patients find it quite invigorating.
For stiffness and pain, I may apply small glass suction cups to specific channels and acupuncture points in order to stimulate the flow of blood and qi. A small flame is used to create a vacuum within the cups that are then quickly applied to your skin so that they stick in place.
Scraping (Guasha) refers to the use of a small rounded ‘guasha’ tool that is drawn painlessly across your skin. It is a great way to release tension from a specific area, is useful for moving stagnant qi and blood, and is commonly used in the treatment of musculoskeletal problems. When scraping is used, it is common to feel heaviness or tension drain away from the treated area.
Electro-acupuncture makes use of a small electric current to stimulate the channels and points in your body. This can be very useful for treating blood and qi stagnation resulting from physical injuries. You will feel a mild tingling passing through your skin between needles that are attached to an electro stimulation device.
The NHS website discusses conditions that NICE recommends considering acupuncture for, as well as other conditions that acupuncture is often used to treat.
The British Acupuncture Council website gives an overview of acupuncture practice in the UK, and lists all member practitioners.
The Evidence Based Acupuncture website gives an excellent overview of research into acupuncture, as well as addressing research into specific conditions.
Acupuncture is considered a safe treatment which, at times, can cause minor side effects, like tiredness, dizziness or local bruising. The risk of a serious adverse reaction is extremely rare. All acupuncture needles are individually packaged, sterile, and disposed of after each use.
Although acupuncture does not hurt there is generally some sensation associated with it. As the needle is inserted the tiniest of pin-pricks is sometimes felt on the skin surface. This is nothing like the feeling you might associate with having an injection as the needles are much finer (0.22mm) and solid rather than hollow.
It is hard to be specific about how many sessions you might need, as there are numerous factors that can play a part in this assessment. Some things to consider will be your age, the length of time you’ve had your problem, and whether it comes and goes or is always present. Then, another equally important variable is the extent to which you are able to make lifestyle changes that will support your treatment.
It is helpful to think of acupuncture as supporting your body’s own natural healing function. This means that once you’ve received the required “dose” of treatments, we will have given your body the support it needs to tip the balance in favour of healing. Of course, lifestyle changes will be necessary to ensure that you aren’t slipping backwards between each treatment session.
In general, clients often feel positive changes after their first few treatments. Then, depending on the seriousness of the problem, it can take from 5 to 10 sessions to achieve maximum benefit. In order to get the most benefit to you from the least number of treatments, I recommend coming twice weekly for your first two weeks (or at least 3 times if this isn’t possible), coming weekly for the next four weeks, and then, if things are going well, you can usually drop to coming every two or three weeks for your last sessions. If you notice symptoms starting to return, it is a sign that your body isn’t ready for this length of time between sessions.
In the case of women’s fertility treatment, I recommend coming weekly for at least 3 months before a cycle in which you are trying to conceive. This allows me to treat at the different stages of your menstrual cycle in order to help regulate it, and also allows us to have a suitable impact on follicular development before you try to conceive. This length of time would also be beneficial before starting an IVF cycle, but I do support women who haven’t been able to achieve this.
Many issues arising during pregnancy are likely to respond more quickly to treatment – pregnancy nausea might require 4 twice-weekly sessions unless very severe; correcting a breech position would be attempted in 2 weekly sessions with you treating yourself at home in between; pre-birth acupuncture would be offered in weekly sessions starting from week 37.
Many people in Western countries expect to come for acupuncture once a week, and this works well for the most part. I believe, however, that to get the most benefit to you, in the least amount of session it is beneficial to come more frequently at the beginning and then space this out as you start to feel the benefit of treatment. In general, I would recommend coming twice-weekly for your first two weeks (or at least three times), then once you start feeling better coming weekly for the next four weeks, and if this is going well then spacing out to every two to three weeks for your last sessions. If you notice symptoms returning with these changes in frequency, then you will need to start coming more regularly again.
Please try to eat a light meal about two hours prior to treatment, as it is best to avoid feeling too full or too hungry when on the couch. Please also avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol for at least two hours before your session, as these can interfere with your treatment. Please wear loose-fitting comfortable clothes as many commonly used acupuncture points are located on the lower arms and legs and this will make treatment more convenient. Finally, please avoid brushing your tongue, wearing strong perfume, and wear only minimal makeup, as this will allow for more accurate diagnosis.
If you are receiving acupuncture for the first time then you may feel a little light headed or tired directly after treatment. This is a normal reaction and is not something to be concerned about. Acupuncture can also cause the body to become a little dehydrated so it’s good idea to drink some water after treatment. Very occasionally a bruise can appear where a needle has been inserted, but this will be very minor and will clear after a few days.
Tai Chi and Qigong provide a gentle physical exercise which medical studies have shown to be beneficial for the health of the heart, bones, nerves, muscles, and immune system. They are a great way to support your acupuncture and tuina-massage treatments.