A guide to telling if Acupuncture is for you
Written by Ms Gordana Petrovic for Doctify
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a part of energy medicine dating back about 3,000 years ago. It became known in the Western world a lot later, and is now increasingly the medicine model of choice for many modern health issues. It is based on restoring the homoeostatic equilibrium in the body by stimulating it to regulate its essential functions by itself.
When the body and mind are in balance, we enjoy good health: our metabolic functions are timely, we sleep soundly, have regular bowel movements, have a robust immune system and our reaction to stress is appropriate to the situation. When the body and mind are de-balanced, we start experiencing pain, tension, and chronic health problems, poor immunity and, increasingly, impaired fertility.
What happens in a consultation?
Acupuncture treatment is based on inserting fine, hair thin needles into certain body points to stimulate healing process or reduce pain. I use a combination of points according to a very specific diagnosis that follows noting my patient’s personal and familial medical history, observation of the tongue and pulse on both wrists, and gentle abdominal palpation. Details about lifestyle, diet, exercise, sleep patterns, digestion, bowel movements, pain and its location are very important; medication and treatment through conventional medicine, and, if applicable, details about menstrual cycle are all discussed in detail. These facts help me to determine what we call the “pattern of disharmony” and prescribe a treatment protocol. Acupuncture prescriptions are re-assessed and re-valued at subsequent sessions and may be adapted, according to changes to pulse, tongue and palpation diagnosed.
During the treatment, the sensation felt following the needle insertion is described as a tingling or dull ache. The needles used are single-use, sterile and disposable and the common post-treatment response is to feel calm and relaxed. Other responses to treatment can sometimes include tiredness or mild dizziness, and on occasion minor bruising may occur. However, all such reactions are rare and short-lived.
Acupuncture works well on its own or alongside conventional medicine
Although acupuncture is excellent as a preventative therapy, I often see patients that have tried everything else, conventional or alternative, before coming in to see me and seeking help for their health condition. This is partly because acupuncture is still not integrated into mainstream medicine as it is a relative newcomer as a complementary medicine in the West; and partly due to lack of credible research that would confirm its efficacy and allow it to be included within primary care. Despite this, I have certainly noticed in my own clinical practice that there is an increase in referrals from general practitioners, fertility specialists and other medical professionals. More and more research is now under-way to determine the mechanisms of acupuncture and what patients can expect to achieve when they undergo this treatment.
There are many times when acupuncture works as an independent therapy very well, reducing pain, for example, or promoting relaxation and helping reduce stress. But also, in my experience, my patients’ health issues are resolved when conventional medical treatments are combined with acupuncture, and the best practices are chosen from both medicines.
There is no replacement for adequate medication when necessary, or for diagnostic procedures that are so advanced today, and extremely useful to give us an insight when nothing else can. My responsibility as a practitioner is to help my patients access the best help utilising all the professional knowledge I have and co-operating with other specialists when this appears to be indicated.
Acupuncture works best over time
Frequency and length of acupuncture treatment depends on a patient’s individual condition, duration and whether it is acute or chronic. Some change is usually felt after five treatments, but for chronic issues, I may recommend a course of ten. Some people may need treatment over several months or long-term. Acupuncture aims to resolve underlying causes of ill health manifestations, so there must be sufficient time for the body to start, develop and conclude the healing process we initiate.
Choosing your practitioner
If you decide to try acupuncture, your first choice should be a properly qualified (to a BSc degree level at least, or equivalent), insured and experienced practitioner. This is because we receive training in both basic conventional medicine and advanced Chinese Medicine practices, with over 3500 hours of study, as well as supervised clinical practice for a year before being eligible for independent practice.
If you have been prescribed medication it makes sense to tell your doctor that you are planning to have acupuncture. Equally, the acupuncturist should always be aware of about any medication taken, as this may affect the response to the acupuncture treatment.
It is important to feel good about your chosen acupuncturist as in a good therapeutic relationship the patient has to be able to trust us to share personal information and feelings, which in turn will speed up the process of improving their health.