Frequently asked questions about acupuncture treatment
- What is acupuncture?
- What are the benefits of acupuncture?
- How does acupuncture work?
- How long does acupuncture take to work?
- How long should needles be in for acupuncture?
- Is acupuncture safe?
- Does acupuncture hurt?
- What happens if acupuncture needles are left in too long?
- How much does acupuncture cost in the UK?
- Do acupuncture needles stay in for days?
- Is acupuncture regulated?
- Does acupuncture have any side effects?
- Is it normal to have bruising after having acupuncture?
- What are the different types of acupuncture?
- How long should needles be in for acupuncture?
- Are acupuncture and dry needling the same?
- How often should you get acupuncture?
- Will it work if I have it less often?
- Can you have acupuncture twice a week?
- How often should I have maintenance sessions?
- Where on the body do the acupuncture needles go?
- Where do the needles go for fertility?
- Can I eat before acupuncture?
- What shall I wear to my acupuncture session?
- What are ear seeds and tacks used for?
How long does acupuncture take to work?
Upon your first visit, your acupuncture practitioners will recommend a course of treatment based upon their diagnosis. The course of treatment can vary from twice weekly sessions to weekly sessions for 6 weeks to several months. Generally after 30 minutes of treatment you should feel something working.
The length of time needed for it to work depends on what medical problem is being treated and the type of accupuncture being used. For example, people suffering from pain, anxiety or stress will normally notice a reduction in their symptoms after the first 1-2 sessions. For more chronic disorders such as skin problems, chronic pain or infertility, treatment may take several months.
To help it work quicker, you can optimise your lifestyle and dietary as well as take supplements. Your acupuncturist should be able to give you this advice.
How long should needles be in for acupuncture?
Acupuncture needles inserted from 2mm to 4cms into acupuncture points on the body for between 20-30 minutes, depending upon the type of acupuncture being practised and the health problem being treated.
In Japanese acupuncture, the needles are inserted briefly and then removed. In Western medical acupuncture, which isn't recognised in China, the nerve is stimulated to relieve pain. In Chinese acupuncture, the needles are left in for around 20-30 minutes.
Fine needles which are pre sterilised are inserted into areas of the body where the energy can be influenced. Traditional acupuncture treatment has made a beneficial effect upon the body as soon as the acupuncture needle in inserted into the channels called meridians.
Generally, most traditional acupuncturists who are members of the British Acupuncture Council leave the needles inserted for around 20-25 minutes. Having the acupuncture needles left in for longer than this can help person who are feeling stressed or anxious. Most people like to spend between 30-45 minutes relaxing on the treatment couch with the acupuncture needles in.
If a person's energy is weak, it's better for them to have less treatment time, so as to not damage their energy (qi).
What happens when acupuncture needles are left in for a long time?
Nothing serious will happen to you if acupuncture needles are left in for a too long. You might feel tired as over stimulation of the points can drain your energy. Currently there is no statutory regulation of acupuncture so anyone can pick up a needle and insert it and call it acupuncture.
The cost of acupuncture in the UK
The cost of having acupuncture in the UK varies depending upon location. My follow up treatment costs vary from £70 to £55.
Acupuncture needles that stay in for days
No, acupuncture needles don't stay in for days in western countries. In China, they can be left in for days whilst a person is in hospital. There are ear seeds and tacks which can be placed on specific points on the body for several days.
Are acupuncture and dry needling the same?
No, acupuncture and dry needling are not the same. They are very different types of acupuncture.
During a dry needling session, a thick acupuncture needle is inserted into the spasming muscle to locate the trigger point. Once the trigger point has been located and stimulated by the acupuncture needle, the patient takes 2-3 breathes which helps to release the muscle spasm and pain.
Unfortunately, there is a higher risk of side effects whilst using dry needling, as practitioners are poorly trained in needling and often push the needle too deep into the body looking for the trigger point, which can then puncture a internal organ.
How long does it take to train in dry needling?
The time is takes to train in dry needling ranges from 30-300 hours. Traditional acupuncturists train for 3,500 hours.
How often should you have acupuncture treatment?
How often you get acupuncture treatment depends upon what is being treated, your budget and if you are taking Chinese herbs. It involves stimulating specific points on the body to treat health problems and to improve overall health.
Treatment frequency will depend upon your medical conditions and any other underlying health issues. Generally speaking, 6 sessions is considered a course of treatment. However, some people will need less sessions whilst others with chronic condition more.
Acupuncture has a short term effect. The period of time you will feel its therapeutic benefits is around 3-4 days. If you are having it only and your problem isn't chronic, you can have it once a week. For acute problems and if your budget allows, you would benefit from having treatment two times a week. Your acupuncturist will advise you of the best possible treatment plan.
Having acupuncture less often
If you have it less than once a week you are less likely to feel the benefits of the treatment. Frequent treatments have better results. Acupuncture is not a substitute for professional medical treatment.
Having acupuncture twice a week
In acute cases when the problem is bad or during IVF stimulation, it is recommended to have acupuncture twice a week. This is because the effects generally twice 3-4 days, so repeating them twice a week will have greater benefit to the person.
Having regular maintenance sessions
Once your symptoms has reduced in intensity and you feel better, you can have maintenance sessions every 1-2 months depending upon your condition. If it's one of a chronic conditions you may need maintenance sessions more frequently.
Where on the body do the acupuncture needles go?
Acupuncture points cover the whole body, from head to foot and number over 400. Only a handful of these acupuncture points will be selected for stimulation during a treatment.
The acupuncture points selected for stimulation with an acupuncture needle will vary with acupuncture practitioners. Generally, however, the most common areas where acupuncture needles are inserted include; the head, ears, hands, the problem area, lower legs and the feet.
I use a variety of techniques taught by different masters of acupuncture, utilising various theories and techniques for each individual, giving people a tailor-made acupuncture treatment.
Some acupuncturists like to strongly stimulate the acupuncture needle to get a strong response from the acupuncture point. I don't do this as many people find it uncomfortable. Instead, I use a gentle stimulation with ultra-fine acupuncture needles to make it as pleasant and as relaxing as possible and safe for people with a bleeding disorder.
Where do the needles go for fertility?
Although acupuncture and oriental medicine is a alternative medicine and a complementary medicine, it's used more and more for infertility treatment in men and women. It uses sterile needles to regulate a person's life force and balance their mind body.
The insertion of acupuncture needles for fertility vary location depending where you are on your menstrual cycle. Extra points are used before ovulation to help the egg grow and mature and increased blood flow to the uterus. After ovulation, additional points are used to reduce anxiety and aid implantation.
Generally, for fertility treatment, acupuncture needles are inserted on the top of the head, ears, hands, lower abdomen where the ovaries are, the lower legs, ankles, and the feet.
Can you eat before having treatment?
Yes, you can eat before having treatment
It's best not to have treatment on an empty stomach as you may feel dizzy or light headed afterwards, so eat before if you're hungry, but don't eat a heavy meal.
It's also not ideal to have accupuncture on a full stomach, although it shouldn't cause you any problems. Eat 1- 2 hours before your session starts.
What should I avoid eating before having treatment?
The acupuncturist will look at your tongue as part of a Chinese medicine diagnosis. You should not drink any liquids or food including sweets (candy) that can stain your tongue before seeing your acupuncturist as it will make the tongue diagnose more difficult.
Can I eat after having acupuncture?
Yes, you can eat after your treatment. Having treatment can increase your appetite making you feel hungry after your treatment.
Preparing for your treatment
24 hours before your session your acupuncturist may have emailed you forms to fill out. If not, then you may be asked to fill them out when you arrive.
What to wear to your session
It's ideal to wear loose clothing to your acupuncture treatment to make it easily accessible to parts of the body. Clothing should be able to be rolled up to the elbows or knees to get easy access to where commonly used acupuncture points are located.
Most acupuncturists will want to stimulate some points below the elbow and knees with fine needles.
If you are having your back pain treated, then you will be asked to remove all your upper body clothing. Most of the time women can leave their bra on.
During your session, you'll be asked your medical history and your tongue and pulse will be examined. You will lie on the treatment couch for up to 30 minutes, so it's important to wear clothing that will be comfortable during this time.
Don't arrive to your acupuncture appointment with an empty stomach as you may feel dizzy afterwards. Hours before it's good to stop drinking coffee as it can change the colour of your tongue coating and affect the pulse diagnosis.
Try not to take any medications or have a heavy meal before your appointments because it may affect your energy flow.
Many acupuncturists will use a heat lamp which can make you feel a bit warm so you may not need to wear a sweater or jumper.
Ear seeds and tacks
A tack or ear seed is a small object that's stuck onto specific points on a person for them to stimulate in between sessions. They are left stuck on the body using sticky tape night and day, until they lose their stickiness and fall off.
Tacks and ear seeds work by stimulating points a person might need to help rebalance their health. This reinforces the treatment allowing for greater effect. A common use of ear seeds is on the 'mind' point on the ear (shenmen) to help calm the mind and treat anxiety.