Frequently Asked Questions

Are there different styles of acupuncture?

Yes. There are two common styles of acupuncture practice; Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncture and Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture - my degree level training covered both of these disciplines.
Western medical acupuncture as practised by some doctors, physiotherapists and osteopaths, will use basic needling techniques within the framework of a western medical diagnosis to relieve symptoms such as pain and headache, and they may also use trigger point acupuncture to treat musculo-skeletal pain.

However, TCM acupuncture and Five Element acupuncture, as practised by myself and other members of the BAcC is based on Chinese medicine principles that have been developed, researched and refined for over 2,500 years. Its holistic approach is not just focused on isolated symptoms, and it regards pain and illness, whether physical or mental, to be a sign that the whole body is out of balance.

TCM acupuncture and Five Element acupuncture vary slightly in needling style and diagnostic techniques but both concentrate on improving overall wellbeing by treating the root cause of an illness as well as relieving symptoms. Both styles of acupuncture spring from the same Chinese medical roots.

How many sessions will I need?

An initial course of 5-6 sessions is often recommended but the frequency will depend on your individual condition. Weekly treatments are ideal in the beginning and it may take about six weeks of weekly treatments for a condition to be noticeably relieved. The rate of improvement will vary from person to person and will depend on several factors such as the condition being treated, duration of the problem and lifestyle aspects.

For complex or long standing chronic conditions, one or two treatments a week for several months may be required.
A brief review of progress is made at each visit, and a more detailed review is conducted during the fifth or sixth successive visit. Once they feel that their symptoms have been alleviated, patients often elect to return for 'well being' maintenance treatments and continue at weekly, fortnightly or monthly intervals in order to help to keep the body in balance.

Is it safe?

Acupuncture has a proven and sound track record as one of the safest medical treatments, both conventional and complementary, on offer in the UK today.

Two surveys conducted independently of each other and published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 concluded that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000 - this is far less than many orthodox medical treatments.
A total of 66,000 treatments were reviewed altogether, with only a handful of minor and transient side effects recorded.

A 2003 survey of 6,000 patients of acupuncture produced almost identical figures.

As a traditional acupuncturist in the UK, Ray is regulated by The British Acupuncture Council which ensures the highest standards of training and ongoing professional development. As a member he also adheres to the strict treatment guidelines as set out in their Code of Safe Practice.

There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practised by a fully qualified practitioner of traditional acupuncture. Any minor side effects that do occur, such as a slight dizziness or a bruising around needle points, are mild and self-correcting.

How can I prepare for my first visit?

If possible, you are advised to wear loose comfortable clothing, particularly around the legs and arms where the most commonly used acupuncture points are located. However, it may be necessary to remove some clothing when other points on the body might also require needling, so gowns are provided to allow patients to remain covered up and comfortable throughout the session.

It is best not to have treatment on a completely empty stomach, but heavy meals and alcohol should be avoided.

If you are on any medication, please bring along details. If you suspect that you may be pregnant or have a contagious disease, please advise the practitioner beforehand.

It is beneficial to allow a little time afterwards to try and relax.

What will I feel in a treatment?

To allow an acupuncture needle to penetrate the skin quickly without sensation, it is gently tapped through the surface of the skin using a thin plastic guide tube. The insertion procedure itself is normally quite painless, but patients will feel a sensation as the practitioner gently manipulates the needle, affecting the energy in the channel - this is also otherwise seen as an indication that the right nerves are being stimulated. This is normally described as a tingling, dullness, or a heavy dragging sensation.

Depending on the type of treatment being used by the practitioner, needles which have been inserted may then be immediately withdrawn or are sometimes retained for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. If the needles are retained for the duration of the treatment, most patients are unaware of them and can comfortably rest, often drifting off into a completely relaxed state.

Rarely, when a needle is removed there may be a tiny spot of blood - this is stopped very quickly by applying some pressure with a sterile cotton wool ball. Occasionally a small bruise may appear at the site where a needle has been inserted but this should disappear within a day or two.

Can I combine acupuncture with other treatments?

Acupuncture can be combined successfully with other treatments including conventional medical treatment. You should inform the practitioner of any other treatments you are having.

Should I tell my GP I am having acupuncture?

If you are currently receiving treatment from your doctor it is sensible to mention that you plan to have acupuncture. Your acupuncturist will need to know about any medication you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment.

Should I still take my prescribed medication while I am having a course of acupuncture?

Yes. The acupuncture treatment may enable you to reduce or even stop taking some forms of medication but you should always consult your doctor regarding any change of prescription. DO NOT stop taking medication without professional guidance.

Is it possible to claim treatment back on my health insurance?

Ray, at Acupuncture Balance, is now  recognised and registered by the following private health insurers - Aviva, PruHealth, Simply Health, WPA - as a professional healthcare provider.

Several other private health insurance providers  may also cover treatment with an Acupuncturist - particularly one registered as I am, with the British Acupuncture Council.

However, as different companies will vary in their policies and conditions, it is advisable to check with your insurer first before commencing any treatment, especially if you propose to claim the money back. Depending on the health insurance company and your policy with them, your treatment may need to be qualified by a referral from a GP or Consultant.