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Acupuncture has been used for more than 2,000 years in China. In the past 30 years it has become more popular in this country, and there are now over 1,500 British doctors who use acupuncture as part of their medical practice.

What sort of problems can acupuncture be used for?

Acupuncture has been used to treat many medical problems, but is particularly useful for pain. It can help with joint pains, muscular pains, migraine, and even period pains. It has also been used to treat problems such as sinusitis, hay fever, irritable bowel, and nausea.

Will medical acupuncture treatment help me?

Three quarters of all people will get some benefit from medical acupuncture treatment. They may lose their pain completely, or they may find it is much improved. Unfortunately, about a quarter of patients do not seem to respond to acupuncture, and we can never guarantee results

Is acupuncture safe?

Provided you are under the care of a medical doctor, acupuncture does seem to be a very safe treatment. Some patients may experience bruising, may feel faint, or may feel very tired following treatment. However, acupuncture has less side effects than many drug treatments and most people experience no problems at all.

Do the needles hurt?

Many people are worried about this, but acupuncture is usually almost painless. The needles are very thin, and most patients are surprised at how little they can feel. It is normal to feel a slight prick as the needle is inserted. After that you may feel a warm, heavy sensation around the needle – this is usually quite pleasant.

What exactly will happen when I come for acupuncture?

The doctor will find out more about your pain by asking questions and by examining you. You can discuss the treatment, and if you decide to try it, a few small needles will be inserted and left in place for a few minutes. The needles will usually be inserted around the area where you feel pain, but some needles may also be placed in your hands or feet. Some doctors place small needles in the ear.

Sometimes the doctor will twiddle the needles. Occasionally, your doctor may advise you to have electro-acupuncture, where a small and painless electric current is passed across the needles. Very occasionally your doctor may use Moxa treatment – where herbs are burned to warm the needles.

How many treatments will I need, and how often?

You may find you feel very relaxed and sleep better following your first treatment. However, it may take several treatments before you notice much real improvement.

Treatments are normally given at weekly intervals, although your doctor may advise more or less time between treatments. If you have not noticed any recovery after 3 treatments your doctor may feel that you are unlikely to respond and may advise you to stop your acupuncture treatment.

Most people need between 3 to 8 treatments, and some people need to return for regular “top up” treatments every few months.

How does acupuncture actually work?

We now have a much better understanding of how acupuncture works, although there are many things we still don’t understand. More research is needed.

We know that acupuncture stimulates the release of natural pain killing chemicals within your body. These are released in several areas of your body – around the needles, in your spinal cord where the nerves run, and in your brain. Acupuncture also causes the release of other natural substances in your body which promote healing and aid recovery.