Acupuncture is an ancient therapy which has roots in Chinese medicine; it involves inserting a series of extremely fine needles into certain points of the body. Acupuncture is based on the principle that health conditions may be caused by imbalances in the body. The positioning of the needles in the body helps to restore the free flow the body’s natural energy (known as ‘Qi’ or ‘chi’); this helps to improve the natural healing process.
Which conditions can be treated with acupuncture?
Acupuncture can be used to treat a huge range of conditions, including:
- Neck pain
- Dental problems (mostly tooth ache)
- Long-term back pain (chronic back pain)
- Pain following surgery
- Hay fever
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Digestive disorders
- Mental health conditions including depression and anxiety
Most acupuncture sessions last between 20 and 40 minutes; most patients have up to 12 sessions of acupuncture. The acupuncturist will ask you questions about your general health; if you have come for treatment for a particular condition, they will ask about your symptoms and about any treatments you have already tried. Once they have a general idea of your health they will set about inserting the needles into designated spots on your skin (these are known as acupuncture points). Usually, patients have between 2 and 12 needles, which will be left in the body for a period of around 20 to 30 minutes.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture that is carried out by a trained professional is a very safe means of treatment; patients rarely experience any negative side-effects and the process should be painless. Practitioners use sterile needles that are disposed of after each patient. You should ensure you go to a qualified acupuncturist that is registered with one of the following organisations, The British Acupuncture Council, the British Medical Acupuncture Society, the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists or the British Academy of Western Medical Acupuncture; to find out details of qualified, registered acupuncturists in your area, you can contact the British Acupuncture Council or use the online search facility on the British Medical Acupuncture Society’s website.
Is acupuncture available on the NHS?
The NHS does not generally provide acupuncture services; most patients go to private acupuncturists; prices vary between £25 and £50 per session.
Does acupuncture work?
There is some evidence to suggest that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for some conditions, but there is very little evidence to support its efficacy with regard to many of the conditions practitioners claim to be able to treat. Acupuncture has been proven to be an effective treatment for migraines, headaches, back pain and nausea. Research into the efficacy of acupuncture is ongoing.