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This is less common a problem than it used to be, as acupuncture has become more commonplace and accepted, and people have seen how fine needles are. However, a small minority of people do still find the idea of needles scary.


Practitioners are trained to deal with cases like this. For many people it's the sight of needles which can be the problem, although that's not always true – for some people it's what they can't see which really upsets them. Your practitioner will do their best to find out exactly what it is about the needles that you find difficult and work to reduce its effect. This might mean choosing points in areas where you feel 'safer' or it may mean very shallow needle insertion. If it really is impossible to bear the thought of needles a great many practitioners use acupressure techniques, or a practise a technique called moxibustion which uses a warming herb on the skin, or even a form of massage called tui na.


The most important thing to remember is that as the patient you can be in charge of the situation as much as you want. If you ask your practitioner to proceed very slowly or cautiously, then that is what they will do.


Very few people are so scared of needles that they try them and never come back or never try them at all. Most can't believe why they were worried in the first place.

The vast majority of treatments are unremarkable. Sometimes patients experience a slight tingling sensation as the needles are inserted, and in some styles of treatment there is a dull, aching sensation where the needles have been inserted and manipulated. This sensation is given the name 'deqi' (pronounced 'derchee') by the Chinese and is regarded as a sign that the treatment has 'taken.'


Since the use of plastic guide tubes with needles became the norm a decade ago, the effect of the slight pressure of the sterile tube on the skin surface has reduced the sensations associated with needle insertion considerably, and the increasing use of the Japanese-style sharply pointed needles has done the same. There will always be occasions when the more sensitive patient feels a little more discomfort, but most will feel very little.


Acupuncture needles are solid and extremely fine, as little as 0.18 mm in width, nothing at all like the large hollow needles which most people remember from their childhood injections or the nails which people see in cartoons about acupuncture! Ask your practitioner to show you how fine they are compared even to a household sewing needle, and you can be reassured that they are not going to cause much sensation.

Yes. Acupuncture is one of a number of options which have a proven success in dealing with tension-type headaches in the short-term. Headaches are one of the most common reasons why people consult an acupuncturist in the UK, and while we're still waiting for research into the treatment of migraine headache relief to be accepted as thoroughly reliable, the evidence for tension headaches is well-documented and accepted. Not only can treatment deal directly with the symptoms you experience, but the general sense of well-being and relaxation associated with the treatment can help to reduce and hopefully provide temporary relief of the symptoms.



Many people experience headaches of this nature because of the working patterns of modern life, with the focus on screen-based work and long hours sitting in the same position. Your practitioner will explore with you what practical steps you can take to help the treatment to have the maximum possible benefit.

Yes. There is robust and well-researched evidence that acupuncture can provide a real benefit for the short-term relief of low back pain. Indeed, NICE, the body which makes recommendations to GPs about what works in practice and is cost effective, now includes acupuncture in its list of treatment options for the temporary relief of low back pain. Many conditions can take a while to improve, and your practitioner will regularly review your progress. Many back problems can be exacerbated by the kinds of work that people do, and you may well need to address a number of issues like workplace layout, diet, and general lifestyle to help the acupuncture to work.

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 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.

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