Acupuncture can be defined as the insertion of fine needles into specific points along defined pathways in the body, to direct the flow of ‘qi’, stimulating the body to restore balance and ultimately, health and wellbeing.

All styles of acupuncture are rooted in the classical Chinese medicine texts such as the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine – the Huangdi Neijing 黄帝内经 (written around 250BCE).

The theory and practice of acupuncture described in these texts have remained unchanged for millenia and continue to be taught in colleges today.

Mind and body are not seen as separate and the physical, emotional and mental aspect of life and your interaction with the world around you are seen as interdependent and interrelated.

Therefore, your symptoms, specific experience of those symptoms and how those experiences change based on the time of day, season, climate, dietary changes and many other influential factors, become part of your diagnosis and treatment.

Acupuncture is now widely used and accepted all over the world and clinical trials are now confirming its efficacy. More and more people are able to benefit as acupuncture becomes a recognised option within standard healthcare.

There are around 2.3 million acupuncture treatments given each year in the UK reflecting a growing popularity. (source: The British Acupuncture Council).

The Treatment Process

Time for you

Time to talk about where you are with your health and your specific needs. This creates the framework to understand how you are progressing with treatment and to identify changes in your health over time if you are coming for seasonal treatment/health-maintenance.

Clinical diagnosis

Looking at your tongue, feeling your pulses (and where relevant), palpating the acupuncture channels of the body, forms the basis of the Chinese medicine diagnosis. This is reviewed at each session.

Acupunture points

Choosing the acupuncture points is where the depth and diversity of acupuncture treatment possibilities is expressed through the various point combinations choices, based on the traditional diagnosis, your main complaint(s) as well as the time of day, season and climate.

Returning to the pulse

Your pulses will be felt several times during the session to understand how the treatment is influencing change and to further explore your energetic picture through this diagnostic feedback.

Other Treatment Methods

Often used in conjunction with acupuncture to enhance the effect of the treatment. The herb, Moxa, (artemsia argyi – common name: mugwort) is used to warm the acupuncture points. This supplements the Qi and blood, and warms and relaxes the muscles and mobilises the body fluids.

Moxa can be used directly on the skin, being made into small cones, placed on acupuncture points or on the end of a needle, and ignited to allow it to smoulder. Another technique is to waft a lighted moxa stick (a little like a cigar) along the meridian pathways.

Click here to read a research article on the effects of moxa.

Cupping involves applying suction to small areas of the skin using rounded cups.

A vacuum is produced in each cup either by flame (fire-cupping) or by mechanical suction (suction cupping) which causes the skin and tissue to lift up into the cup, resulting in a temporary redness or mild bruising which fades after a few days. This is part of the therapeutic effect.

Cupping promotes blood circulation, increases pain thresholds and reduces inflammation and is used for acute and chronic issues.

Click here to read a research article on the effects of moxa.

Guasha is the rubbing of the skin with a specialised round-ended instrument. It is mostly used on the back, shoulders and neck but can be applied to other body areas.

It increases circulation of blood in the surface tissues, which causes small red or purple spots (petechiae) called ‘sha’ to appear. The skin is not damaged in any way and the redness fades in a few days.

Guasha is used to move blocked Qi (energy), which is considered to be the main cause of pain and stiffness in muscles and joints. Many research trials conducted in China show it’s efficacy and there is a growing body of research in the West confirming its anti-inflammatory and immune system stimulating properties.

Massage of the tissues (either with or without oil) may also be used, to free the flow of Qi in specific areas, to relax the muscles and improve circulation of blood and lymph.

Various techniques can be used, to rub, knead, stretch, tap or percuss the muscles and work on specific acupuncture channels. In addition, working at various depths and in certain directions also influence the flow of Qi through the body.

Herbs: Acupuncture and herbal medicine were traditionally practiced together. Chinese herbs offer a huge support for many issues and both acupuncture and herbs complement each other – using the same methodology, they are uniquely integrated in their action. See the Herbs section for more info.

Diet and lifestyle: Most people assume that acupuncture is solely the insertion of needles into the body. However, the classical Chinese medicine texts place great emphasis on the quality, nature, timing and process of eating, alongside how one lives one’s life.

Advice on diet and lifestyle is often given to support your acupuncture treatment. This enables you to continue to support the treatment process between your sessions and in some cases significantly speed the healing process.

Frequently asked questions about Acupuncture

Please click on the following most commonly asked questions. If you have a question or concern that is not answered here, please get in touch.

Many people use acupuncture for help with specific symptoms or conditions. Others choose acupuncture as a preventive measure to strengthen their constitution or because they just feel generally unwell. Acupuncture is considered suitable for all ages and can be safely integrated alongside conventional medicine.

Acupuncture is widely considered to be beneficial for a range of illnesses and symptoms, from clearly defined complaints to more general feelings of ill health and low energy. Take a look at the British Acupuncture Council’s extensive research fact sheets to find out more about how acupuncture can help you.

This is not a simple question to answer as it depends on many factors such as your individual condition, how long you have had it, as well as how quickly you respond to treatment. At first you may need treatment once or twice a week and may start to feel benefits after the first or second treatment although long-standing and chronic conditions usually need more time to improve. Once your health has begun to improve, you may only require treatments every few weeks.

Acupuncture is also very effective when used for prevention and many people like to go for a ‘retuning’ session at the change of each season.

Most people find acupuncture to be deeply relaxing. Patients often describe the needle sensation as a tingling or dull ache. This is one of the signs the body’s qi, or vital energy, has been stimulated. However, at all times, needling ‘strength’ is adjusted to suit your tolerance and the condition being treated, so that you are comfortable throughout your treatment.

Many different types of needle and gauges (thicknesses) are used – for the very sensitive, incredibly fine needles, down to 0.12mm wide can be used!

Try not to have a large meal within an hour of your appointment as the process of digestion will alter the pattern of your pulse and depending upon the treatment required, you may need to lie on your stomach!  You should also avoid alcohol and food or drink that colours your tongue such as coffee or strong tea. It is a good idea to wear loose-fitting clothes so that the acupuncture points, especially those on your lower limbs, are easily accessible.

Please also try not to wear makeup, perfumes or body-sprays especially on your first visit, as the detailed diagnosis also includes looking at your natural colouring and allowing the practitioner to pick up odours that might relate to your condition (please note, we do not ‘smell our patients’ but simply maintain a sensitive awareness whilst we are in the room working with you!).

You are likely to feel relaxed and calm. Some people experience an emotional release. If the treatment has been particularly strong you may feel tired or drowsy and it is worth bearing this in mind if you plan to drive or use any other machinery soon afterwards.

Acupuncture has virtually no unpleasant side effects. Any that do occur are mild and self-correcting. Occasionally there may be minor bruising at the needle point or a short-term flare-up of your current or old symptoms as your qi clears and resettles and your body regains balance.

Acupuncture points are chosen based on many factors such as the time of day, season, climate and your unique, specific complaints. The number of points chosen, the type of needle, technique and duration the needles are left in for varies greatly. This is based on the specific treatment required for you at that particular time – making acupuncture an incredibly tailored treatment.

Lee uses approximately 18 different types of needle for different applications. All of the needles are sterile, single-use, disposable needles with some as fine as a human hair (0.12mm wide). This makes acupuncture suitable even for those with great sensitivity.

Because Lee uses mostly classical acupuncture techniques, aside from certain protocols used to treat specific complaints, the number of points used is almost always very few and can typically be one to six.

Depending upon what a person needs, the needles are left in the body for less than a second or two in order to stimulate your energy, or up to thirty minutes to create a different effect. On occasion, this can be longer depending upon the required effect. It is common for people to comment on how deeply relaxed they feel whilst the needles are in, as the Qi is smoothed and regulated.

Yes. The acupuncture treatment may enable you to reduce or even stop taking some forms of medication but you should always consult your doctor regarding any change of prescription. DO NOT stop taking medication without professional guidance.

If you are currently receiving treatment from your doctor it is sensible to mention that you plan to have acupuncture. Your acupuncturist will need to know about any medication you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment.

That depends upon your insurer and the policy you have. As the demand for complementary medicine increases more private health insurance companies are beginning to offer cover for acupuncture. You should check your individual policy details. If you choose to use your insurance to cover your treatment costs, please ensure that you still pay on the day of your treatment and then claim your expenses as we are not able to do this for you.