Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about acupuncture

Note: some of these FAQs are taken from the British Acupuncture Council website

Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments on offer and has a very good track record.

All members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) observe strict codes of safe practice and professional conduct. All procedures within the BAcC are approved by the Department of Health and ensure very high standards of hygiene and protection.

Two independently conducted surveys carried out in 2001 and published in the British Medical Journal concluded that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000 - this is far less than many conventional medical treatments.
What about the needles used?
Acupuncture needles bear little resemblance to those used for injections or blood tests.
They are extremely fine and you may not even feel them penetrate the skin. Once inserted, they are hardly noticeable and can be left in place for up to 20 minutes.
I use high quality pre-sterilised disposable needles which are used only once.
What does acupuncture feel like?
When the needles are inserted, clients often describe the brief sensation as warm or tingling. Sometimes they may experience heaviness in the limbs or a dull ache which is mild and temporary.
During treatment it is quite common for clients to experience a pleasant feeling of peace and relaxation.
How many treatments will I need?
This very much depends on you and your individual condition.
A first course of at least 6 treatments is common but most people find an improvement after 3 or 4 sessions. Some people start to feel the benefits after just a couple of sessions although more long-term chronic conditions usually need more time.
Initially I will generally ask to see you once or twice a week until some improvement has been maintained, after which the treatments will gradually be spaced further apart.
Once a full recovery is made you can decide how often you may want treatment to maintain the improvement or you may decide to have a periodic check-up as a preventative measure.
Who comes for acupuncture treatment?
A wide variety of people come for acupuncture, ranging from children to the elderly, because it is such a safe treatment.
Many people come for treatment for specific complaints. Others come because they feel generally unwell or have a range of symptoms that seem trivial but have a significant impact on the quality of their lives.
Some people come for acupuncture as their first choice of treatment, whereas others have found it extremely beneficial after other forms of treatment have been unsuccessful.
I find that while many of my patients have specific symptoms, some may wish to improve their general energy levels and sense of wellbeing or use acupuncture as a preventative treatment.
How should I prepare for my first treatment?
It is helpful to wear loose-fitting clothing for your treatments so that the acupuncture points, especially those on your lower limbs, are easily accessible.
You should avoid food and drink that may colour your tongue such as coffee or strong tea and it is best that you avoid eating a large meal within an hour of your treatment as this may affect your pulses.
Are there any side-effects?
Many people feel very relaxed and calm after acupuncture treatment - some feel quite drowsy for a few hours.
However, acupuncture has virtually no unpleasant side-effects and any that do occur are mild and self-correcting.
Occasionally there may be minor bruising around a needle point or a short term flare-up of your symptoms as your body re-adjusts to the effects of the treatment.
Should I tell my doctor that I am having acupuncture?
Acupuncture is safe and very effective when used in conjunction with conventional medicine.
However, if you are currently receiving treatment from your doctor it is sensible to mention that you intend to have acupuncture. Similarly you will need to let me know if you are taking any medication as this may affect your response to the treatment.
Should I continue my prescribed medication whilst having 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. You must not stop taking medication without professional guidance.
Is acupuncture available on the NHS?
A very small number of GP practices offer integrated healthcare with complementary therapies including acupuncture and many BAcC members work within GP practices and primary care trusts (PCTs). However this is not yet commonplace.
Will my private medical insurance cover the cost of treatment?
This depends upon your insurance company so you will need to check your individual policy details.
As the demand for complementary medicine increases, more private health insurance companies are beginning to offer cover for traditional acupuncture.
What is the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC)?
The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the leading self-regulatory body for over 3,000 acupuncturists who practice traditional acupuncture in the UK. Acupuncturists who are members of this organisation carry the letters MBAcC after their name and they are accountable to the BAcC for their professional behaviour.
Why choose a BAcC member?
All members are required to meet and maintain the standards for safe acupuncture practice set out in the Code of Safe Practice.
The Code of Professional Conduct also sets out the high standards of personal and professional conduct required of BAcC members. All members of the BAcC can offer you a number of assurances:
BSc or BA degree-level training or its equivalent in traditional acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and western biomedical sciences including anatomy, physiology and pathology (3,600 hours of study)
Compliance with current UK health and safety legislation
Full medical malpractice and public/products liability insurance cover
Expert practice skills maintained by following a mandatory individual programme of continuing professional development (CPD)
Regular updates from the BAcC regarding practitioners' professional obligations to the public
Compliance with BAcC Code of Safe Practice and Code of Professional Conduct
Patient access to the BAcC complaints and disciplinary procedures
English language skills at least equivalent to those required of doctors and nurses working in the UK

If you have any further questions about acupuncture I will be very happy to answer them. Please visit the Contact page to ask a question via e-mail.

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John Porteous West End Acupuncture
12 Ingersley Rise
West End
SO30 3DN

phone: 023 8032 7022
mobile: 07847 110275
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