Acupuncture is a complementary therapy that was developed
by the Chinese almost 5,000 years ago. It means when needles
are inserted into the skin at specific points.
How does it Work?
Acupuncture was highly regarded
as an effective therapy by the ancient Chinese, as they
believed that by inserting needles into the skin, the needle
point unblocked pathways called ‘meridians’,
these pathways channel the natural energy of the body and
when the pathways become blocked they cause pain.
Medical practitioners believe
that by inserting needles into the skin, the puncture point
stimulates neurological processes which trigger the release
of chemicals from the brain and spinal cord, which help
in the reduction of pain.
Although 2% of the population
of the United Kingdom use acupuncture annually, the results
of how efficient it is have been found to be quite uncertain.
This makes its scientific quality extremely difficult to
measure, therefore difficult to recommend as a treatment.
There are many variables to remember when trying to measure
the success of a treatment.
The patient’s expectations
of it working, the incidence of needle-phobia, and the levels
of pain experienced by patients and the availability of
tools available for measuring pain.
There have been findings
that show acupuncture can help to reduce pain and allow
periods of increased physical activity for up to three months
for those people who suffer from chronic back pain.
For these patients, it is a very cost-effective treatment
as it is a pretty fast, straightforward and inexpensive
procedure which also lessens the need for other painkilling
There is however, no sign
of it being a successful treatment for those suffering from
acute back pain. In any condition, acupuncture only treats
the symptoms of back pain, not the underlying cause.
The same risks apply to
all needles, all equipment should be for single-patient
use, always kept in sterile packaging and used in a controlled
and sterile field so as to reduce the risks of hepatitis,
HIV and other infections.
As long as this standard
is met, it is quite a safe treatment, with other less serious
side-effects such as dizziness and nausea. Make sure that
you are well supported and cannot fall when receiving acupuncture.
Who Performs Acupuncture?
Sadly there is no governing
body or government legislation concerning the practice of
acupuncture, which means anyone can set themselves up as
an acupuncturist without having to complete any training.
Not only is this unsafe, serious diseases such as cancer
could also go undiagnosed and there are no guidelines on
price or whether the equipment will be of a high and sterile
Always check the qualifications
of your practitioner and ask for references. It is possibly
for the best to avoid practitioners who advertise in local
papers, on leaflets or at fairs and exhibitions as these
may be unlikely to have any medical knowledge.
The safest option is to
ask for a recommendation from your GP, there may be an acupuncturist
who may actually be able to perform the treatment in the
The British Acupuncture
Council, although it is not an official body, it has 1,700
members and speaks in favour for the completion of a thorough
training programme and is working with the British Medical
Association into making acupuncture available to all patients
and in every clinic; at the moment it is offered in 85%
of pain clinics.
With acupuncture becoming
more and more available within the NHS, the need to seek
private consultation is lessening. If a sufferer does decide
on private treatment, costs vary for each patient as multiple
sessions are usually required, which last from just a few
sessions to a treatment plan that continues over several
A typical session normally
costs around £30-£40, though a medical physician
may be able to charge a higher fee than a non-medical acupuncturist.