Frequently Asked Questions
Who has acupuncture?
What happens when I go for treatment?
How many treatments will I need?
How long is a treatment?
What does it feel like?
Is it safe?
Are there any side effects?
Should my doctor know?
Does acupuncture interfere with medication?
Can I have acupuncture if I’m pregnant?
Many people come to acupuncture for help with specific symptoms or conditions, and some because they simply feel generally unwell. Others choose acupuncture to enhance their feeling of well-being. Acupuncture is considered suitable for all ages, including babies and children. It can also be used alongside conventional medicine.
You will be asked about your current symptoms, what treatment you have received, your medical history, your diet, digestive system, sleeping patterns and emotional state. The focus is on you as an individual, rather than your disease or symptoms. The acupuncturist will also feel your pulses on both wrists and look at your tongue. The points chosen to place the needles are not always close to the part of the body where you experience the problem. For example, although you might suffer from headaches, needles may be inserted in your foot or hand.
Every patient is different and acupuncture treatments are unique to each individual. Frequency and length of treatment depends on your individual condition. Most patients start coming for treatment weekly and as treatment progresses, the interval between treatments lengthens to fortnightly and then monthly if ongoing treatment is required. Some patients may need treatment over several months or long term. As a rule the longer you have had a complaint the longer it will take to improve. Some change is usually felt after five treatments, although occasionally only one or two treatments are required. In most circumstances it is advisable to commit to a course of six weekly treatments to re-establish the balance of energies within the body.
The needles may be left for a short period of time (usually 20 minutes), or for a second and then removed immediately, depending on your needs. Treatment itself usually lasts between 45 minutes and an hour.
Many people who have not had acupuncture before are naturally concerned at the thought of having needles inserted into their body. It is important to remember that acupuncture needles are usually as fine as a hair and very different to needles used to give injections or take blood. When the needle is inserted the sensation varies from patient to patient but is often described as a tingling, numbness or dull ache.
Acupuncture has a very sound track record. The needles used are single-use, sterile and disposable. Responses to treatment can sometimes include tiredness or mild dizziness, and on occasion minor bruising may occur. However, all such reactions are short-lived.
In some cases, symptoms may change before improving. In very rare circumstances, they may be temporarily aggravated before improving with acupuncture. This is usually part of the adjustment of your energetic balance and is soon followed by an improvement in your condition.
This is not essential, however if you have been prescribed medication it makes sense to tell your doctor that you are planning to have acupuncture. You should always tell your acupuncturist about any medication you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture has no adverse effect on medications and there is no need to stop medications before acupuncture treatment. It may be that some medications (e.g. sleeping tablets) can be reduced or withdrawn as treatment progresses. This will only be done in consultation with your GP, who must agree to the reduction.
If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, please make sure that the acupuncturist knows as some acupuncture points are contraindicated in pregnancy. Acupuncture is a fantastic replacement for drug therapy in pregnancy and can help to relieve some of the symptoms experienced during pregnancy.