What should I wear for treatment?
Light, loose clothing is best. You will not usually be asked to remove clothing. Trousers that can be rolled up to above the knee are ideal. Towels are placed over you once lying on the treatment table. The room is kept comfortably warm. If suffering with neck or shoulder pain, it is useful to have long hair tied back.
What can I expect during my appointment?
The first part of the treatment involves a consultation. On your first visit questions are asked about all aspects of your health and medical history. If you are on a lot of medicines, it helps to bring a list. Similarly if you have a long medical history, it is really useful to bring a list in chronological order where possible. Alison will check your blood pressure next. Subsequent visits, you will be asked about any changes and how you got on after your previous treatment. Following your consultation, you will be asked to lie down and once you’re comfortable Alison will have a look at your tongue and feel pulses on both wrists (this helps with diagnosis). Following this fine needles are gently inserted and left in place for 20 minutes. Because energy meridians range across the whole body, the points used are not necessarily close to where you experience pain or discomfort. For example, if you suffer from headaches, needles might be inserted in your foot or hand. Sometimes it is appropriate to place and burn moxa, a medicinal herb on needles. The moxa enhances treatment by warming the body, relaxing muscles and moving stuck energy that can manifest as pain. Another treatment that may be appropriate is “cupping”. Glass cups with a vacuum seal are placed on the skin to stimulate blood flow and clear stagnant energy. The glass cups when moved glide over oiled skin and it feels like a massage.
What can I expect after my treatment?
Most people find acupuncture relaxing and often feel very calm after a treatment. You may feel a little tired or sleepy and should take this into account if you are planning to drive or use heavy machinery straight after your treatment. You should refrain from vigorous exercise after treatment and, ideally, give yourself a little time to rest. It is also advisable not to drink alcohol for several hours after treatment.
Acupuncture has very few side effects and any that do occur are usually mild and self-correcting. Cupping can sometimes temporarily mark the skin. Such bruising is painless and generally clears within a day or two.
You may feel better on the day of your treatment but it can also take a few days to feel the benefits. Chronic conditions (of greater than 6 weeks) typically take longer to treat than acute conditions, so you may need several treatments for maximum relief and an occasional “maintenance” treatment. You’ll be advised of this after your first treatment.
What does it feel like?
Most people find acupuncture very relaxing. Clients often describe the needle sensation as a tingling or dull ache. This is one of the signs the body’s qi, or energy, has been stimulated. The needles are made of very fine stainless steel and are often barely felt at all. You might feel an initial tingling sensation in another part of the body as the needle enters. This is because the meridians (or channels) run to and from the upper and lower body. You may be needled around your knee but feel it in your toes!
For information on how acupuncture can help a variety of conditions with summaries of research, visit the British Acupuncture Council website.