Traditional acupuncture has developed over a period of nearly two thousand years. Initially from China, where it is used in hospitals on a daily basis, its use has spread over the years and is now widely available throughout Western countries.
Pain or illness are seen as signs that the body is out of balance, and the aim of acupuncture treatment is to restore equilibrium. This is done by inserting very fine needles (all single-use, sterilised) into specific points around the body, which serve to trigger the body’s natural healing response.
Note that physical and mental health are seen simply as different aspects of the whole; acupuncturists will always aim to treat the individual, and not just an isolated set of symptoms. Each patient’s treatment plan will be uniquely tailored for them.
Two of the most widely practiced acupuncture styles in this country are known as “traditional Chinese medicine” (TCM) and “Five Element Acupuncture”. Although both draw on many of the same traditions and principles, they differ in the approach to deciding on the most appropriate treatment for a given patient.
My training was at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine, in Reading, where both techniques are taught.
Acupuncture is just one component of traditional Chinese medicine, although probably the best known. Other elements include massage (e.g. Tui Na), acupressure (applying pressure to acupuncture points, without the use of needles), and diet and lifestyle changes.
“Five Element” acupuncture was introduced into the UK by J R Worsley, and is an adaptation of the traditional Chinese model. It identifies five fundamental elements as wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Diagnosis focuses on identifying which of these elements is the cause of imbalance in the patient, and then treating accordingly.
“Just rub it better.” Were you ever told that as a child? There’s a reason – it works.
Documents from ancient China record advice on dealing with pain with what we would now call massage. It is referenced in “The Classic of Internal Medicine of the Yellow Emperor” from over two thousand years ago. Over the centuries, it developed as an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, alongside acupuncture and other therapies. The name “Tui Na” first appears in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Suppressed during the Cultural Revolution of the early 20th Century along with other elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it was revived and is now flourishing again in China. It is also becoming more widely available in the West.
It uses some of the same diagnostic approaches as for acupuncture but doesn’t involve any needles. The aim is to aid the body’s healing process and achieve a good balance of Qi (vital energy) in the body.
Massage is done fully clothed, though you should wear loose fitting items as freedom of movement is important.
It can be used as a standalone treatment or alongside acupuncture. This 2019 study concluded that Acupuncture combined with Tui Na could significantly increase the therapeutic effect of acupuncture in migraine treatment.
Tui Na can be used to treat many conditions such as:
- Frozen shoulder
Cupping is the use of a glass cup to create a vacuum on the skin to help relieve tight muscles and conditions where there is pain. I use it alongside acupuncture, especially for shoulder or back pain.
The process can leave a characteristic round bruise on the skin – see, for example, some of the images of the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps – but this will clear within a week to ten days.
Gua Sha is a treatment that involves scraping the skin to stimulate blood flow and release energy. This is done by using a lovely massage oil and a tool. The aim is to relax stiff muscles and help circulation.
It is especially good for tight muscles in the neck, back and shoulders. It can leave red marks on the skin initially, but these fade within a few days.
Moxibustion, or “moxa” for short, involves the burning of a preparation of the mugwort herb. There are a number of different ways of doing this, but I most commonly use prepared moxibustion sticks, which allow me to direct the heat to precisely where it is needed and also to control the intensity of the treatment.
It produces a deeply warming sensation which can be used to help with a wide variety of muscular issues.
Your first appointment will last up to 90 minutes.
I will ask you to complete a short form giving your contact details and your consent to treatment. It would be very helpful if you could bring with you details of any medication that you are currently taking. Then I will take a more detailed medical history so that I have the full picture of what has happened in the past and what is troubling you today.
Subsequent appointments will be shorter – up to 60 minutes – as we won’t need to repeat that process.
I will take your pulse, and also examine your tongue. These are important diagnostic tools in Chinese medicine!
At this point I will make a preliminary diagnosis in Chinese medicine terms, and we will be ready to begin your treatment. I may use any combination of Acupuncture, Tui Na or other techniques, but will always let you know what I propose to do and talk you through any options that are relevant.
As well as the treatment itself, I may make lifestyle recommendations that are likely to help with your condition. These may include diet, exercise and sleep habits. It’s up to you what you do with this advice!
I will also follow up the first treatment, usually by email, with details of my recommendations. This might include suggested exercises, for example.
We can also discuss a future treatment plan. The number of treatments that will be required does of course vary enormously, and in the end it is up to you to decide. I can book your next treatment as we finish each one or, if you prefer, you can decide later and then either contact me directly or book yourself online.
How To Book
The charge is £40 for each standard appointment, or £55 for the initial consultation (which includes your first treatment). You can pay on the day by cash, cheque, credit/debit card or direct bank transfer.
Shorter (30-40 minute) appointments are available for Tui Na only, for which the charge is £30.
Please note that appointments cancelled with less than 24 hours notice are chargeable in full.
Some private health insurers will cover the cost: the British Acupuncture Council has an up-to-date list here, but you should check with your own insurer.
If you’re not sure whether acupuncture is right for you, or you’d like to find out more before going ahead, then I’d be delighted to have a free, no-obligation chat with you by phone or in person. Just get in touch and we can arrange a conversation at a time to suit you. If you want, you can arrange this through the online booking system. Or just call!