What is the difference between medical and traditional acupuncture ?
Traditional acupuncture plays an integral role in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In traditional acupuncture, it is thought that De Qi (pronounced chi), or life energy, flows around the body in channels called meridians, helping to regulate bodily functions and nourish organs. By needling points along these meridians it is possible to influence flow of energy and exert a therapeutic effect on the meridians and organs. Points are chosen based on a traditional diagnosis which involves a careful examination of the tongue and pulses. It is performed by practitioners who have undergone undergraduate training in Traditional Chinese Acupuncture
Medical acupuncture is practised by regulated healthcare professionals who have undergone extra training provided by the British Medical Acupuncture Society to enable them to offer acupuncture and dry needling as treatments. Modern scientific research has found that inserting acupuncture needles into the skin actually increases blood flow and generates impulses in nerve fibres in the immediate area. Through these effects it is possible to influence the nervous system to reduce pain, promote healing, and regulate nerves controlling bodily functions. Points to needle are therefore chosen based on which nerves we wish to stimulate. When Dry Needling, points are chosen based on the location of muscle 'trigger points' and their particular pain referral patterns.
Many of the points used in traditional acupuncture are also used in medical acupuncture. In fact, there is some overlap in the formulae for treating specific conditions between these two approaches.
What does it feel like ?
Acupuncture needles are exceptionally fine and often there is little sensation from the needle being inserted.
When the needle reaches the muscle tissue patients often feel an aching sensation or a feeling of pressure, sometimes they may feel tingling or warmth in the area the needle has been inserted.
If a trigger point is needled, the sensation may be referred to another area nearby (known as a referred pain area). All these sensations are normal and vary from patient to patient. Some patients feel nothing at all!
Are there any side effects ?
Patients react differently to needling and it is impossible for anyone to predict. Acupuncture can make some patients feel incredibly relaxed, light headed or drowsy following treatment, others can feel energised. If you have had dry needling you may feel a little tenderness following treatment, much the same way as a sports massage may make you feel.
There are no drugs which are contraindicated for use with acupuncture although it may be useful if you made me aware if you were taking medications which impact blood clotting times or have a sedative effect. You should make me aware if you have been fitted with a pacemaker or other cardiac device as electroacupuncture could interfere with its functioning.
How many treatments will I need ?
The number of treatments required is unique to the individual. Usually treatment is weekly, but can be more or less frequent depending what the treatment is for.
For some 3 to 6 treatments may be enough, for others top-up treatments may be required weeks or months apart.
Is acupuncture / dry needling safe ?
Acupuncture and dry needling are considered to be safe therapies. Adverse events are rare. I am regulated by the British Medical Acupuncture Society and am required to participate in training courses every year to retain my membership which allows me to practise. I am also a registered nurse and am required to follow all the regulatory requirements of my profession.
In clinic, I use single-use disposable needles, and dispose of needles according to relevant guidelines. This prevents spread of blood-borne diseases.
Acupuncture does not interact with medications and there are no contraindications for use.
What does a treatment typically involve ?
When you arrive at the clinic we will discuss your medical history and decide on the most appropriate treatment. I will leave you to get comfortable on the treatment couch. You will only be required to expose the area I will be treating, you do not need to get fully undressed.
Some common acupuncture points are on the lower legs and arms so these areas may need to be exposed. Once I put the needles in I will leave you to relax for about 20 minutes. This is how long it takes for the needles to exert their effects on the nervous system. After this time, I will reposition the needles and repeat the procedure.
A typical appointment usually lasts around an hour.
Should I continue with my prescription medication if i am having treatment ?
Yes, definitely. Acupuncture does not interact with drugs and it is safe to have treatment alongside taking your medication.