Why have acupuncture treatment?

There are many possible reasons for considering acupuncture treatment and everyone has their own motivations. A few of these reasons are:

  • Acupuncture is a safe and effective form of medicine.
  • Acupuncture is holistic and aims to regulate the energetics of the body and bring it back into balance.
  • Acupuncture treats both the symptoms and the root of an illness.
  • Traditional Chinese Acupuncture can identify imbalances in the body at a very early stage.
  • Acupuncture can treat signs and symptoms that may not have a clear Western medical diagnosis.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine has been practised over 2000 years, offering a well-established medical system which has developed from observation and practice.
  • Acupuncture can help you come off certain prescription drugs (with your GP's consent).
  • Acupuncture can be a useful alternative if you do not wish to take prescription drugs for whatever personal or medical reasons.
  • Offers a unique perspective of how we view the body and therefore can often give more understanding about a disease process and how it may have developed.
  • Lastly, acupuncture may be the last alternative after trying everything else! It is not uncommon for patients to come to the clinic as a 'last measure'.


What do the Acupuncture Needles Feel Like? Do They Hurt?

Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not painful like injection or blood sampling. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is less than when using a hollow needle. People experience acupuncture needles differently. Most patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are inserted; some feel no pain at all. Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt.  The most common complication of treatment is a small bruise or a drop of blood when the needle is removed.Any medical technique involves some risk. Properly performed, acupuncture presents minimal hazard when compared to drug regimens or surgical techniques.  Because the needles are so small and light, the sensation that occurs when the needles are placed is minimal. A heavy, distended, sore, or achy feeling is often felt around the area of effective acupuncture.


Are There Any Side Effects?

It is quite common with the first couple of treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome.  Occasionally the original symptoms being treated worsen for a few days, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may be triggered. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that healing is occurring.


How Many Treatments Will I Need?

The number of treatments needed differs from person to person. For complex or long-standing conditions, one or two treatments a week for several months may be recommended. For acute problems, usually fewer visits are required, and for health maintenance, four sessions a year may be all that is necessary. The number of treatments necessary depends on the condition being treated. Recent injuries and conditions seen at an early stage will often improve immediately. Those conditions that have been present for longer periods may require more treatment, and serious derangements of structure or metabolism will require extensive therapy.

For many disorders, symptoms reflect underlying conditions that may have to be treated beyond the point at which symptoms have improved. If treatments are stopped too quickly after symptoms begin to respond, the condition may eventually return.

A course of treatments for recent problems in a healthy person may range from 2 to 5. In a person with many health problems and a chronic disease, as many as 7 to 15 sessions may be required before an initial response is seen.


Do I Have to Believe in Acupuncture For It To Work?

No. Acupuncture is used successfully to treat animals that cannot understand the process or “believe” that it will make them better. A positive attitude towards wellness may reinforce the effects of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral attitude will not block the treatment results.


Which conditions can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture can be helpful in a variety of chronic or periodic painful conditions, such as low back pain, neuralgia, headaches, premenstrual and peri-menopausal syndromes, and the pain resulting from arthritis and rheumatism. Various syndromes that are difficult to treat using Western medicine, such as the various fibromyalgia syndromes, may also respond well to acupuncture.  Acupuncture is used as an adjunct in the treatment of asthma, allergies, and  sinus problems, as well as in the acute symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections. When treated at an early stage, cold or flu symptoms may be completely eliminated. Acupuncture is also finding increasing use in various chronic viral illnesses which cause a variety of symptoms and fatigue.

Other conditions responsive to acupuncture include repetitive motion injuries such as those suffered by typists and musicians, and muscular aches and pains from overwork or strained muscles. Pain that persists after surgery can also be treated.

In addition, those suffering from Bell's palsy, chronic disorders of diarrhea or constipation, and some inflammatory disorders of the digestive system can be relieved.

Acupuncture is now widely recognized as a treatment for painful conditions such as the pain and swelling of acute joint sprains and bruises. If treatment can be given within 48 hours of an injury, the results are usually very positive.

The World Health Organization has also listed conditions which have been proven to be effectively treated by acupuncture.


How do I know if acupuncture will help my condition?

The best source for knowledgeable information about your specific condition is a practitioner trained in all aspects of Oriental Medicine. This individual should also be able to advise you if Western evaluation and treatment is more appropriate for your problem. An initial evaluation to obtain a history and examine you is necessary. Then the doctor will discuss your diagnosis and the options for treatment.


How should I prepare for treatment sessions?

The best general advice is to come in a calm state. Try to arrive ten or fifteen minutes before your appointment to allow yourself a chance to relax. Vigorous exercise or sexual activity in the hour before treatment is not recommended.

You should not have recently eaten a large meal, nor should you be fasting for more than 6 hours before your appointment. The use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs is also not recommended prior to or just following a treatment.

Comfortable, loose clothing should be worn, and, if possible, you should not wear any metallic jewelry, watches, or earrings. Makeup and nail polish should be minimized or eliminated.

Please also avoid the use of perfumes, colognes or strongly scented cosmetics.


What happens during the treatment?

Depending on the areas to be treated, you may be positioned on your back, your stomach, your side, or sitting. Be certain that you can remain relaxed in this position, as you may not wish to move for the duration of the treatment, usually 15 to 25 minutes.

It is best to practice a slow and relaxed abdominal breathing during treatment, and to avoid trying to do any mental work. Abdominal breathing means allowing your abdomen to expand as you inhale, and to contract as you exhale.


What sensations will I experience during treatment?

Usually, there is a pleasant state of calm, which develops during the treatment and may persist for some time. You may even fall nearly asleep during the session. In areas that have been treated, a sensation of heaviness or swelling may persist for up to an hour or so after treatment.

You may find that the pain or discomfort of the condition may be reduced by 20 or 30% or even completely eliminated. Frequently, the relief will persist, though in some situations the pain will return after a few hours or days to its former level. In certain conditions, a worsening of pain is to be expected before improvement is seen.

For some disorders, no effect is noticed immediately and the condition takes a few days or a series of treatments to respond. Be sure to tell us of the response to treatment at the next appointment so that necessary changes can be made to your treatment.


What should I do after treatment?

It is often helpful to sit quietly following a treatment, and relax. A gentle walk or very mild exercise can also be helpful. Large meals, vigorous exercise, alcohol or excessive aggravation should be avoided.


Will I need to get undressed during treatment?

Most of the acupuncture points are located between the elbow & hand, and the knee & foot. Therefore, for a lot of conditions it is only necessary to roll up trousers & shirtsleeves - provided the clothes are loose enough!

Obviously, there are occasions when it is necessary to remove clothing down to underwear, such as when treating back pain. Although the pain may be located in the lower back, it is often necessary to treat the whole spine especially if there is a long history of back problems. For women, it is often necessary to unclip the bra when lying face down on the couch so that the practitioner can feel the muscles & acupuncture points on the back.


How does acupuncture work?

There is no simple answer to this question. In the orient it is sufficient to say that acupuncture stimulates and regulates our energy (or Qi). Within the West we are always looking for another explanation that more easily fits into our concept of what medicine is and how medicine works. Unfortunately no-one can firmly say, acupuncture works by such and such method.... The problem is that there are many different styles and techniques of acupuncture and they don t fit any one particular model. We do have some understand about how acupuncture works, but we do not have the complete picture.

For example, when acupuncture is used as an analgesic for operations in China it is understood that the insertion and manipulation of acupuncture needles stimulates the production of the body’s own natural painkillers - endorphins. At the other end of the scale, very gentle stimulation of the small toe of a 34 week pregnant woman, can cause the baby to turn into the correct position if it is lying in a breech position. This would not stimulate the body s endorphins. Instead other theories have emerged about the effect it has on the adrenal glands... another model for another type of acupuncture. In short, there are many theories about how acupuncture works but there are is no one conclusive answer.