Frequently Asked Questions
It’s understandable that you might have questions before starting a course of acupuncture treatment. Common questions are answered below but Jo also offers free 20 minute consultations if you wish to discuss your concerns and health issues before booking treatments.
What happens when I come for treatment?
Your initial visit will take between 90 minutes and two hours, and begins with a detailed personal and medical consultation covering your family history, general health and lifestyle, and full details of your current complaint/s and the tests or investigations that you’ve had. You will also have the opportunity to discuss in complete confidence any concerns or troubles you may currently be dealing with.
This will be followed by a short physical examination, which includes taking your blood pressure, checking your pulses and examining your tongue – all of which helps to build up a more complete picture of your current health status. In most cases, aside from the most complex, this is then followed by your first treatment. Subsequent appointments take up to an hour, and include discussion of your progress and your treatment to date.
At every stage, the practitioner will explain the process and seek your consent before continuing. If there is any question or examination that you do not feel comfortable about, just say so. Anything you tell your practitioner is kept in the strictest confidence.
What does it feel like?
Many patients are concerned that acupuncture maybe painful, but the needles are flexible and very fine and there is usually only a very slight sensation as it enters the skin. Patients often describe this feeling as a short-lived dull ache or tingling at the acupuncture point. Many people find acupuncture relaxing and feel very calm during and after a treatment.
Is it safe?
Acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments currently on offer in the UK, in fact in 2001 a number of studies concluded that the risk of serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. Any minor side effects that do occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are infrequent, mild and self-correcting. Needles are single-use, sterile and disposable and all British Acupuncture Council members abide by a very strict code of conduct and safe practice. To read more about the safety of acupuncture please visit the British Acupuncture Council’s website.
How many sessions will I need?
The majority of people will respond to acupuncture positively. But, as with most things, we all vary in our response. Some people experience relief from their main symptom after a few treatments. For others, it may be a gradual and cumulative improvement over six to eight treatments. Some patients feel a change, however large or small, during or immediately after the treatment, whereas others may notice the changes after a few days.
How many treatments you will need depends on several factors: how you respond to acupuncture, how long you have been suffering from the problem, and the severity of the issue. A recent acute problem or injury, like a sprained ankle, is more likely to respond within a few treatments. However, a chronic problem, such as long-standing asthma or sciatica, may take more treatments.
Generally, treatments are weekly for the first five or six weeks. Initially, changes might come in small steps, providing a gradual and cumulative improvement – and patients often report other unexpected benefits, such as improved sleep, better energy levels or easier digestion. The aim is to gradually increase the gap between treatments as your body responds to the treatment.
What should I wear?
Many of the points that are used during an acupuncture treatment are below the elbows and below the knees. It can help if you wear loose-fitting clothing so that you can roll your sleeves or trousers up as far as the elbow and knee respectively.
In some instances, the practitioner will need access to the site of your pain, for example your shoulder or hip. Your practitioner will provide blankets to ensure your dignity and comfort.
Your practitioner may also need access to acupuncture points on your back, chest or abdomen. In some instances, you may only need to lift or undo your clothing; occasionally you may need to remove your top to provide access to the whole of your back.
Does my health insurance cover acupuncture?
As acupuncture is becoming more popular in the UK, some private health insurers now cover acupuncture. Jo is a member of the British Acupuncture Council. This often means that patients are able to reclaim the costs of their treatment if they have private health insurance.
The British Acupuncture Council website has a list of contact details for the relevant UK private health insurers, but you will need to contact your own provider directly in order to ensure that you are in fact covered and to find out about any exclusions that they operate in terms of refunding full or partial treatment fees. The list is accurate as of October 2015.
Should I tell my doctor?
Acupuncture has been found to be extremely useful for people who have either not responded to conventional forms of treatment or would like to complement their Western medical treatment. As a complementary therapy, people find that acupuncture can enhance their recovery and/or help with any side effects of medication.
If you are currently having investigations, treatment or medication it is recommended that you tell your doctor if you are planning on having acupuncture. Do not stop taking your medication. You should always tell your acupuncturist about any medication or supplements you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment.
Please bring a list of your current medication to your first appointment.