Why do people come for acupuncture?
While people come with many different health problems, they often tell me they love how relaxing they find acupuncture. They are often surprised that their sleep, digestion, energy and mood improve, as well as the symptoms they have come with. The focus on the individual and their overall experience of wellbeing and ill health is something that makes sense to a lot of people.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Most of my new patients are surprised and relieved to find that acupuncture doesn't hurt. Acupuncture needles are extremely slender and fine. You may feel a brief twinge when the needle is inserted. "It feels a lot like a large martini and half a valium". Grace Dent, Guardian Weekend
Other techniques: cupping and moxibustion
Cupping is often used to help ease muscle tension. A vacuumed glass container is placed on the skin to create suction, which most patients say they find strange but pleasant. Gwyneth Paltrow caused a stir at a New York film premiere back in 2004 when her backless dress showed off cupping marks, and more recently Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was photographed with cupping marks. Moxibustion is used to bring warmth to cold areas of body. Moxa (dried mugwort/artemisia) is placed directly on the body, or on the top of an acupuncture needle, and lit until a pleasant feeling of warmth is felt. A heat lamp may also be used.
How does acupuncture work?
The "mechanism" of acupuncture, how it works, has not been established. Standard research methods such as those used to evaluate pharmaceutical drugs are not very useful in investigating how acupuncture works. However there is a growing body of qualitative research evidence about the effectiveness of acupuncture, you can find a selection at the Acupuncture Research Resource Centre or the British Acupuncture Council. If you would like to read more, I recommend a fascinating book by Dr Daniel Keown (medical doctor and acupuncture practitioner): The Spark in the Machine - How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine.