The initial consultation takes between 1hour 15mins and 1hour 30minutes and is very important, it takes into account your medical and family history, your lifestyle, emotional state and how your various systems function (e.g sleep, appetite, digestion) and your present condition. 5 Elements acupuncture differs from other medical systems as it takes into full consideration how you interact with the world around you, and how in tune with natural rhythms and natural inherent human tendencies (Elements) you are. You are seen as intrinsically connected to and affected by the world around you, rather than operating in isolation. This information is essential in determining treatment, and also in identifying what factors may be creating imbalance in your life.
Pulses, located in the wrist are taken and give the practitioner information about the state and flow of Qi in the body.
Specific recommendations regarding your lifestyle may also be made in order to help treatment. I have extensive knowledge of many beneficial lifestyle practices, such as yoga, nutrition and stress management, and often incorporates this knowledge into my recommendations.
Subsequent treatments last 45mins to one hour and consist of a shorter consultation followed by a treatment.
In addition to needling, other techniques such as the burning of Moxa Herbs, Gua Sha (a type of massage) or cupping may also be used.
Number and Frequency of Treatments
This depends to some degree on your own circumstances. Commiting to a block of 4 sessions (one per week ideally in 4 consecutive weeks) is the most common way to begin treatment as the effect of acupuncture can be cumulative and is more likely to lead to sustained improvement. Receiving treatment in this way is also sending the right signals to your body that it is being supported over a period of time so you can relax for a few weeks and enter into a deeper healing process.
After an initial series, then subsequent treatments can be gradually spaced further apart, or we schedule seasonal or ad hoc check-ins.
In cases where there may have been a longstanding imbalance or condition, it follows that it can take more regular or frequent treatment to maintain a sense of improvement.
However, as I’ve seen many times even one treatment can make a difference to how you are feeling, so while a series of treatment is recommended, if you wish to come and try one session and reflect on the experience you are of course welcome.
Response to Treatment
Every individual is unique, so the response to treatments varies from person to person. Often the initial improvements are in the overall state of health and then improvement in the main complaint will follow.
Some people feel revitalised mentally or physically after treatment whilst with others the changes are more subtle and noticed in retrospect.
How Does 5 Elements Differ From Other Styles of Acupuncture
The main characteristics of what defines 5 Elements acupuncture can be found on the ‘About 5 Elements‘ page. However to summarise, alongside treating the physical level, 5 Elements is generally considered to give greater emphasis to the mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions on a person.
In addition, it places emphasis on the person as a part of nature and subjected to the same natural forces of Yin and Yang and the 5 Elements which pervade all living matter, and thus a person’s health must also give consideration to how well they are in balance with these forces. Broadly speaking this means balancing activity with rest, living in tune with the seasons, and ensuring that the various elements of your life are fulfilled or else it imbalances the corresponding physiology in the body – These would be relationships and passions, growth and vision, supportive home life and personal nurture, the ability to let go of old waste and bring in the new and to achieve deep rest and stillness.
On a practical level, a 5 Elements practitioner also tends to stay in the treatment room with you for the entire treatment, so they can support, observe and treat subtle changes in your state. A large proportion of practitioners using other styles often leave you during treatment – usually while they treat other patients.
The video below also outlines some of the key differences:
What About My Doctor?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recognises many conditions which can be successfully treated by Acupuncture. Many doctors and medical professionals now acknowledge and accept Acupuncture as a complementary and in certain cases, as an alternative treatment for a wide range of symptoms and conditions. You may be referred for treatment by your doctor, a consultant or you may contact the practice directly. If you have been seeing your doctor, you may want to tell him or her that you are coming for Acupuncture.
If you are on medication your practitioner will want to know what you are taking. It is important that you discuss any changes you wish to make in taking your medication with your GP or the specialist who prescribed them.
Needles - Do They Hurt?
One of the most common statements I receive from people when talking to them about acupuncture is ‘I’d never be able to get that done, I don’t like needles!’ Well a quick note here to say that I find that most people have built up a memory around needles generally based on experiences they have had with medical injections throughout their life, which of course I agree are usually far from pleasant!
The experience of having an acupuncture needle placed is far different, they are much finer, as the pictures in the gallery pages illustrates. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I find that on some subtle level your body and mind knows the difference between having a foreign substance injected into your veins and a fine needle inserted in a relaxed atmosphere with the intention of stimulating your bodies own healing process, and people are much more at ease with that.
How Acupuncture Works
From a Chinese Medicine perspective any illness or symptom, on any of those levels, is associated with an imbalance of the person’s vital life energy, or Qi (pronounced Chee).
When the body sends out a distress signal in the form of any symptom, either physically, emotionally or mentally, it is a sign that there is an imbalance of Qi, which must be rebalanced to restore health.
From a Western Medical perspective the basic mechanism of how stimulating points on the body affect our health can be traced back to how we develop from an embryo. As our body grows and develops the nervous system links internal organs to planes of fascia (connective tissue) across the body. These points are quite often within muscle seams or planes of connective tissue. Upon needling these points it influences the cellular activity and the nervous system pathways which link back to the internal organs that correspond to that particular location on the body. Click here to read more about some of the science behind acupuncture.
This also explains the often asked question from patients about why I might be stimulating points on for example the legs in order to treat a condition that may be affecting what might seem a different and sometimes unrelated part of the body.
For example if someone may have a Stomach condition, I may treat points on the lower leg, where the Stomach channel (or meridian as it is known in Chinese medicine) travels to. Again if you imagine as we develop from an embryo, our legs develop out of the embryo and as they grow they maintain connections with organs which sit in the lower part of our torso. So by treating a Stomach point, on for example the foot, it sends a signal back to the underlying organ. This is similarly the case with the arms connecting back to organs which are predominantly in the upper part of the body.
In 2002 The World Health Organisation published a report into conditions which have been shown, through controlled trials, to be effectively treated by acupuncture. View the report here.
Acupuncture has also been recently recommended by the National Institute Of Clinical Excellence to become more readily available on the NHS, and a recent study found that acupuncture was more effective for back pain than conventional medicine. Click here for more information.
The British Acupuncture Council website also holds research fact sheets relating to acupuncture treatment for a wide range of conditions, please view here.
Acupuncture is also commonly practiced in mainstream Chinese hospitals, alongside conventional medicine techniques. (It first gained attention in the western world when United States President Nixon visited China in 1972, and one of the travelling reporters had his appendix removed and received acupuncture for post-operative pain relief. He was so impressed that he wrote about acupuncture upon returning to the United States).
"I Don’t Have Time"
Sometimes life gets busy, but here’s something to think about; When you are busy your nervous system gets over stimulated, brain wave patterns change (Cortisol levels increase) and life actually then appears to be going even quicker than what it actually is and we don’t enjoy the journey as much either! It also takes you even longer to relax and for your body to unwind and slow down.
So if you are a very busy person, you need to have activities and practices in your life which also accelerate your relaxation response – which can equally as quickly switch your awareness and state from constantly being in your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) back into your parasympathetic nervous system (aaah, take a breath and relax!)
You would be amazed how quickly I can accelerate your relaxation response during a session. So to balance the busy-ness you also need these amplified relaxation practices to pull you back down to Earth. You might think that sitting at home in front of the TV is relaxing but it actually still irritates the Hypothalamus of the brain and also, depending on what you watch, can still be stressful on the adrenals. In a much shorter space of time I can take you way beyond that state of relaxation. The same applies to the yoga sessions that I teach too.
So I do appreciate some people are really busy, but this heightens the need even more for practices which relax and balance you.