We offer a range of treatment techniques to support your acupuncture treatment. After your initial consultation we’ll identify any other techniques which may be a helpful addition to your treatment.
Acupuncture is an ancient treatment that involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body.
There is some debate about whether acupuncture was first developed during China’s Neolithic period (8000 – 3500 BCE) or whether it is nearer to 2000 years old. In either case, acupuncture has been continuously used and refined for at least two millennia.
Acupuncture needles used today are pre-sterilised and disposable. They are very fine (usually 0.12 mm – 0.4 mm) and flexible. Unlike needles used for blood tests and injections, acupuncture needles are solid rather than hollow and their insertion is usually painless.
Acupuncture points are places where the qi or energy can be easily accessed and most are located along meridians, or energy channels. They can be sensitive to touch and are often found at joints and in small hollows in bones and muscles. The acupuncture points used in each treatment are carefully selected according to their location or agreed function.
Electro-acupuncture was developed some time around the 1930s in China. It involves inserting acupuncture needles, then attaching electrodes to two or more needles and passing a current between them. It can be particularly useful to treat an area that is hard to access otherwise, such as the knee joint, or to stimulate weak or inhibited muscles.
Electro-acupuncture treatment is not suitable for patients with a pacemaker.
Tui Na is a Chinese medical massage. Various techniques can be used to warm up the entire area, stimulate specific acupuncture points and work along energy channels.
Tui Na massage is often performed through clothing, without the use of oils. It is often used in conjunction with acupuncture, either before or after needling. Depending on the location of the needles, Tui Na may sometimes be performed while needles are retained.
Moxibustion is the burning of the herb artemisia vulgaris (mugwort) on or over the skin. It may be used in place of, or in addition to acupuncture. It is considered to have a range of therapeutic effects but will usually not be used on patients who already tend to feel hot.
There are four common methods of applying moxibustion:
Moxa stick – a ‘cigar’ of rolled mugwort is lit and held or moved over acupuncture points or large areas of the body.
Moxa cones – loose moxa is formed into a small cone, placed on an acupuncture point and burnt down until the patient feels the warmth. The cone is then quickly removed. A number of cones are usually used on each point, one after another. The point may then be needled.
Moxa on needle – a small roll of moxa is placed on the handle of a needle that has already been inserted and is then lit. The heat travels through the needle into the body.
Moxa box – loose moxa is placed within a box, the box is placed on a large area such as the abdomen or lower back and the moxa is then lit.
Cupping involves creating a vacuum within a glass, plastic or bamboo cup over an area of skin. The vacuum draws the skin and underlying tissue up into the cup. Sometimes the cup is retained in one location, and sometimes the cup is moved over an oiled area.
Cupping may leave round bruises, which may be red, purple or black, and may remain for anything up to a week. This is a normal side effect of cupping treatment.
The technique is like a ‘reverse massage’, where instead of pressing into the body, the tissues are pulled upwards, improving blood flow and breaking down adhesions. For a more detailed explanation, see this article about how cupping works.
Gua Sha is a therapy that uses a smooth edged tool to repeatedly scrape an area of lubricated skin. This results in subcutaneous blemishing, known as a ‘Sha’ which usually fades within 2-4 days. Although the rash sometimes looks quite severe, it is not caused by capillary rupture, as in bruising, and the therapy is not painful.
In Chinese medicine, it is often used to improve local qi (energy) and blood circulation, to clear stagnation (for musculoskeletal pain) as well as for other conditions such as colds and fevers.
A similar technique, which may be known as Graston Technique® or IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation) is often used by manual therapists to break down adhesions in fascia and scar tissue, lengthen muscle fibres and promote soft tissue healing.
We often give lifestyle advice regarding diet and nutrition (from a Chinese medical perspective), rest, and exercise. We may also teach simple Qigong exercises. We do all this for a number of reasons.
Firstly, acupuncture sessions are usually weekly at most, and while treatment at this frequency can be very effective, there are a huge number of other factors that influence a person’s health in the intervening week.
Especially where diet or lifestyle contribute to a person’s symptoms, it is important that they make changes that have a positive impact on their health in order for treatment to work more effectively and over the long term. Even where a treatment is effective, if the person then returns to the same behaviour that caused their complaint in the first place, the problems will return.
We also find that a person’s treatment tends to be more effective if they are personally involved in the process. There is a tendency in our society to pass all responsibility for our health to doctors and other therapists, and then contine our own unhealthy behaviour. If we want radiant health and vitality, we need to take some responsibility for our own health and accept the outcomes of our lifestyle decisions.
Finally, by making positive lifestyle changes and ensuring treatment is as effective as possible, a patient can expect to see their complaints improve more quickly and they will become less dependent on treatment. Ultimately, they will pay less for treatment and get better results.