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Spotlight on acupuncture: what you need to know

Acupuncture is one of those therapies that you’ve probably heard of. It’s a popular complementary therapy to treat infertility, pain, and many other concerns besides. But what exactly is it? Is it a fad? And how does it work?

What is it?

A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapy in which very fine, sterile needles are inserted through a person’s skin on specific points chosen carefully by the practitioner to address a patient’s symptoms and concerns. The aim? To improve your health and well-being, and ultimately to restore the body’s equilibrium.

Acupuncturists focus on you as an individual, not your illness. This means that 2 patients with the exact same symptoms will receive notably different treatments.

It is different to western medical acupuncture which is often offered by other healthcare providers including chiropractors, physiotherapists and GPs.

Is it a trend?

No. It's been used for a very long time to heal. In fact, acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of healthcare in the world.

According to Emma Cannon, a fertility and women’s health expert, registered acupuncturist, founder of the Emma Cannon Clinic, and a mentor and speaker, acupuncture “is rooted in the Daoist philosophy of change, growth, balance and harmony. 2.3 million acupuncture treatments are carried out each year by British Acupuncture Council registered acupuncturists and the therapy is widely accepted as an effective solution for a huge array of illnesses and symptoms.”

Emma in her clinic

How does it work?

Acupuncture is a therapy based on the movement of vital energy, or qi (also known as chi), along various energy meridians around the entire body. Acupuncturists believe that health and well-being are governed by qi. When it cannot flow properly, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, pain, depression, irritability, stress, hormone imbalance or digestive problems for example. It is strongly believed that this energy flow conditions our overall existence; how we think, how we feel, how our body moves. Everything.

By inserting needles into carefully chosen acupuncture points, practitioners encourage qi to flow more freely and to restore balance.

Does it hurt?

In short, no. Emma explains, “the process in not painful although there is often some mild sensation and the patient can feel very relaxed during and after the treatment”.

What happens during appointments?

Just like during when you visit your GP, consideration of medical history, examination and investigation form important stages in your appointment. As well as exploring your symptoms and how they affect you, your acupuncturist will be interested in you as an individual, and will ask questions about your lifestyle, mood and sleep patterns for example. Your answers help the acupuncturist decide on the best treatment plan for you.

As Emma explains, “once the patient is settled on the treatment couch, a practitioner will carry out pulse taking on each wrist and look at a patient's tongue”: both of which are subtle diagnostic techniques to help understand more about what is going on in their patient’s system.

It’s useful to think through issues affecting your health and makes notes beforehand so that you get the most out of your consultation.

Is there any opposition to acupuncture?

Yes. Acupuncture is a complementary therapy and it has long been suggested by scientists and advocates of modern pharmacology and medicine that the benefits are merely a placebo. These claims are hotly contested by acupuncturists and those who have had positive effects from treatment.

What else should I know before booking?

You can have acupuncture alongside other complementary therapies, and alongside conventional medicine too, although it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor if you have any queries.

It’s important to visit a trusted, qualified acupuncturist. Look on the British Acupuncture Council website to find one.

Instagram: @emmalcannon


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