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What to Expect

How does the acupuncturist diagnose?

Acupuncturists are trained to recognise patterns of disharmony and evaluate the individual patient's specific set of symptoms. All symptoms, not just the major ones, are considered relevant in Chinese Medicine and help to provide clues about the root of the problems. Diagnosis is reached by:
Discussing symptoms and medical history - going through an in-depth health questionnaire including current symptoms, past and family health history, and what may seem to be some slightly strange questions about ailments.
Taking the pulse – this is a very important tool in Chinese Medicine. It gives all sorts of information such as patient's general strength and energy levels, patterns of heat/cold or stagnation, whether any particular internal organs may be weaker and other different qualities. The pulses indicate change in the body's energy very quickly and the acupuncturist may take the pulse several times throughout the session to assess the effectiveness of treatment.
Looking at the tongue – this also gives information about internal organs, heat/cold, fluid accumulation or state of the digestive system.
Face reading – signs on the face, such as - colour, facial lines or marks around the lips can also provide useful information about imbalances.
Palpation – the acupuncturist may also use this type of physical examination of the meridian lines or channels (on forearms and lower legs), to assess fullness/emptiness or areas of tenderness.

Your First Appointment

As there is a lot to get through, your first appointment will last for around two hours (thereafter, appointments last about one hour). The initial consultation consists of:

  • Going through your health history with you.
  • Assessing your pulse and looking at your tongue.
  • If appropriate, carrying out some palpation of meridian lines/channels (feet & legs arms & hands).
  • If appropriate, providing advice on diet or other lifestyle issues.
  • After consideration of all the information, providing an acupuncture treatment by means of Inserting needles – depending on the nature of the problem anything from six to twenty needles may be used. However, acupuncturists aim to bring about rebalancing of Qi with the fewest possible needles and typically it is musculo-skeletal type problems where more needles are used.
  • Discussing the frequency and number of treatments you are likely to need and arranging your next appointment with you.

How many appointments will I need?
It is difficult to give a definite answer regarding the number of treatments needed as each case is different. The beneficial effects of acupuncture are cumulative and each treatment builds on the previous one to bring about positive changes over the weeks. Generally, however, it is recommended that patients have five or six treatments at weekly intervals and after that a longer gap between treatments should be sufficient.

What does acupuncture feel like?
Insertion of the acupuncture needles is painless, but patients usually experience a sensation when the needle makes contact with the energy at the acupuncture point. This can feel different for each patient, but may be a numbness, a tugging, tingling or heaviness. This initial sensation lasts a few seconds and indicates to the practitioner that the Qi is reached and influenced. All needles are sterile and single use only.

Needles may be left in place for twenty to sixty minutes. During this time most patients experience a feeling of calm and relaxation. Immediately after treatment, especially the first time, it is common to feel quite tired.

Over the next few days, the patient usually notices the beginnings of change in their condition as the energy starts to rebalance. They can also experience feelings of increased energy or general relaxation. Many patients find that making changes to their lifestyle and actively participating in their own healing, enhances the effects of acupuncture treatments. Nicola provides advice and encouragement on lifestyle such as diet, exercise and relaxation so that patients can experience greater well-being. A number of self-help leaflets are available to take away.

Is it safe?
Acupuncture needles are very thin - like a hair. They are stainless steel and single use only so there is no risk of cross-contamination.

Acupuncture is safe for those taking prescription medications but it is important that you advise Nicola of all medicines that you take. Some people are keen to try to reduce or stop medication but this should only be considered when a condition improves and with the approval and supervision of their GP or hospital consultant.

What should I do in preparation for my appointment?
Ensure that you have had something to eat within the last few hours– a light meal or nutritious snack is ideal but a heavy meal is not recommended.

Wear loose clothing so that trouser legs roll up easily to mid-thigh and sleeves to above the elbow without causing restriction to circulation. The majority of acupuncture points used are around and below the knees to the feet and elbows to hands but points on the abdomen or the back may also be used so again, wearing something loose gives easy access to those areas without the need to undress.

Avoid alcohol and other intoxicating substances.

Prescription medication – please bring a list of any medications you take. Continue taking medicines at your usual times.

Following a treatment it is advisable to avoid alcohol, strenuous exercise or too many coffees but to drink plenty of water and rest as much as possible.