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Acupuncture: FAQ's

Here are some questions people often ask me when they are thinking about having acupuncture with some answers.

What is the standard treatment for my condition?

The first thing to understand is that in terms of traditional acupuncture you are unique. This is one of its underlying principles and it is for this reason there is no standard treatment. Two people with the same medical diagnosis may well receive different acupuncture treatments.

Your treatment will be individually tailored to giving relief from the symptoms you are experiencing and at the same time supporting your overall health. This can include complementing medical treatments and alleviating side effects of medication.


How many treatments will I need?

Because everyone is different it can be difficult to say how many treatments you will need. For some people there may be a marked improvement after one or two treatments, for others it takes longer and, with serious illness it may only be possible to alleviate some of the symptoms.

Acupuncture tends to be cumulative so a weekly course of four or six sessions is often recommended after which progress is reviewed. As symptoms improve and you start to feel better, it can be easier to make postive lifestyle changes, treatments are needed less frequently and you can complete treatment.

Over a course of treatment some people begin to see their symptoms more clearly in the context of their overall health. As well as the problem that made them seek help in the first place they find improvements in other areas such as sleep, digestion, energy or mood. In other words they expereince treatment as being holistic and as a result some choose to continue with regular or occasional treatments as an enjoyable way to look after themselves.


What happens in an acupuncture treatment?
See here>


What is the theory behind acupuncture?

The basic tenant of traditional acupuncture is illness, pain or poor function occur when the body's vital energy, or qi (pronounced chee), cannot flow freely. There can be many reasons for this; emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, infection or injury are among the most common. Some conditions are hereditary. Your treatment will always be aimed at restoring the flow of qi.


How does acupuncture work and where is the evidence?

Chinese medicine, of which acupuncture is a part, is one of the oldest forms of medicine in existence. It is the accumulated wisdom of many generations of practitioner’s who have tried and tested its ideas and practices for almost two thousand years. Before x- rays, scans and blood tests these practitioners developed a complete system of diagnosis using methodical and detailed observation of the body which contiues today.

Using the concept of qi and theories of yin and yang Chinese medicine poetically explains how we are part of nature and the seasons. This is very different to the language of medical science and how it talks about the body, health and illness.

Modern science is yet to fully establish the mechanisms of how acupuncture works, however it is has made some recent discoveries which validate some of what traditional acupuncture holds to be true. For example myofascial pathways run along the meridians used by traditional acupuncturists; connections between mind and body and the impact of stress, and how the body’s cells communicate lend credibility to the concept of qi. There is a rapidly growing modern evidence base for the efficacy of acupuncture here>


How do I find a safe acupuncturist who is right for me?

Acupuncture is not regulated in this country. Unfortunately this means anyone can buy a box of needles and call themselves an acupuncturist. Acupuncture training varies from as little as two days to a three year full time degree.

If you are looking for an acupuncturist make sure you find out what type of acupuncture they practice, length of training, qualifications and if they belong to a professional body and if so which one. Ask them what experience they have in treating people with your symptoms or condition. There are three types of acupuncture you are likely to come across: traditional acupuncture, medical acupuncture and dry needling.

  • Traditional acupuncture
    Traditional acupuncturists are members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) and have done over 3,600 hours of study including Western and Chinese medical theory. This is usually in the form of a three years full time degree. Training meets World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. Traditional acupuncturists are qualified to use acupuncture to treat the widest range of conditions and each treatment is personalised to the individual health needs of the patient.

  • Medical acupuncture
    Medical acupuncture is practised by GP's and midwives and other medically trained people. It is used for fewer conditions than traditional acupuncture. Training varies from 2 days to 6 months. Practitioners may be members of the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) or the British Acupuncture Society (BAS).

  • Dry needling
    Practised by physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and other manual therapists. It uses set treatment protocols for musculoskeletal problems. Training varies from 2 days to 6 months. Practitioners may be members of the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) or the British Acupuncture Society (BAS).

Sally Lancaster is a traditional acupuncturist read more>

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