What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a branch of traditional medicine that has been practised in China and the far east for thousands of years. It has been developed, tested, researched and refined over this time into a treatment option accessed by increasing numbers of patients in the West. Without the benefit of modern scientific equipment, the first acupuncturists discovered many now familiar aspects of biomedical science.
A growing body of evidence-based clinical research is discovering how the body responds to acupuncture and its benefits for a wide range of common health conditions. Many people have acupuncture to relieve specific aches and pains such as osteoarthritis of the knee, TMJ pain, headaches and low back pain, or for common health problems like an overactive bladder. Other people choose acupuncture when they can feel their bodily functions are out of balance but have no obvious western medical diagnosis leading to western medical treatment. Many also have regular treatments simply because they find it beneficial and relaxing.
The focus for a traditional acupuncturist is on the patient as an individual and not just their specific illness, and all symptoms are seen as part of an interconnected pattern. Treatment involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points which are said to affect the flow of your body’s qi, or vital energy, although there is ongoing research and study that suggests what many practitioners already know: that inserting needles into the channels (or meridians) affects change within the human body, and the term ‘energy’ is rather simplistic.
What is Shiatsu?
Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning ‘finger pressure’ and is a bodywork therapy, which developed from Tuina, a hands-on way to treat the body within the framework of Chinese Medicine. The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare identifies that ‘Shiatsu therapy is a form of manipulation administered by thumbs, fingers and palms, without the use of any instrument, mechanical or otherwise, to apply pressure to the human skin, to correct internal malfunctioning, promote and maintain health and treat specific diseases’.
Treatments are carried may be carried out sitting, lying on a treatment couch, or lying on a futon on the floor. The practitioner uses a combination of gentle stretching, rocking and joint-opening movements to release tension and to facilitate the free flow of energy around the body. The practitioner then uses thumbs, fingers, palms or elbows to apply pressure to points along energy channels, which are also used in Acupuncture, with the aim of releasing blocks and tension and restoring the free flow of energy around the body.
What to expect when you come for treatment
What will happen?
Your initial visit will take up to an hour and a half and consists of a personal and medical consultation covering your family history, lifestyle, systems functions (eg. sleep, appetite) and full details of your current complaint/s and any test or investigations that you have had.
You will also have the opportunity to discuss in complete confidence any concerns or troubles you may currently be dealing with.
After your consultation I will carry out a number of short, non-invasive physical diagnostic tests including blood pressure, temperature distribution and pulse taking. In most cases, aside from the most complex, this is then followed by your first treatment.
Subsequent appointments take up to one hour, and include discussion of your progress and your treatment to date.
What does Acupuncture feel like?
Many patients are concerned that acupuncture maybe painful but as the needles are flexible and about as thick as two human hairs there is usually only a very slight sensation as it enters the skin.
Sometimes patients also feel a dull ache on the acupuncture point but this also only lasts for a few seconds and is generally not considered to be uncomfortable.
Many find acupuncture relaxing and feel very calm during and after a treatment; you may also feel a little tired or sleepy so if possible, try to arrange a relatively restful and quiet day, especially for your first treatment.
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.
To see more information regarding the safety of acupuncture, please visit the British Acupuncture Council’s website.
Shiatsu is considered safe as a therapy as it is grounded within the same theoretical framework as Acupuncture.
Are Acupuncture and Shiatsu safe in pregnancy?
Yes. Adjustments to treatment positions will be made so that you always feel safe and well throughout the treatment. A small number of points are contra-indicated in pregnancy and safe points are added, which support aspects of pregnancy, which are individual to the person attending.