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Displaying items by tag: side effects

Monday, 04 May 2009 00:00

Is acupuncture safe?

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Acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments, both conventional and complementary, on offer in the UK.

Two surveys conducted independently of each other and published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 concluded that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. This is far less than many orthodox medical treatments.

One survey was of traditional acupuncturists and the other of doctors who practise acupuncture. A total of 66,000 treatments were reviewed altogether, with only a handful of minor and transient side effects recorded.

A 2003 survey of 6,000 patients of acupuncture produced almost identical figures.

There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practised by a fully qualified practitioner of traditional acupuncture. Any minor side effects that do occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are mild and self-correcting.

When you receive treatment from a BAcC registered acupuncturist you can be confident that your wellbeing and safety is at the heart of everything your practitioner does. The following assurances are BAcC standard:

  • BAcC members have completed a first-degree-level training or equivalent in traditional acupuncture including substantial elements of western anatomy, physiology and pathology
  • your BAcC acupuncturist will record all relevant details of your health condition and your medical history before treatment commences. Occasionally, based on this information, he or she may refer you to your GP for further investigation or medical treatment
  • your BAcC acupuncturist uses only pre-sterilised single-use needles which are safely disposed of after your treatment
  • all treatments are carried out in accordance with exemplary professional standards developed by the British Acupuncture Council and detailed in the BAcC Codes of Safe Practice and of Professional Conduct
  • the treatment room and all equipment must conform to standards laid out in the BAcC Code of Safe Practice and in nearly all cases have also been approved by local authority environmental health officers
  • BAcC members have full medical malpractice and public/product liability insurance cover.

The BAcC is aware of the practice of self-needling, especially for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and are taught limited but effective treatment to minimise the side-effects of the drug therapy. However, some places now appear to routinely hand out needles to patients for the purpose of self-treatment at home. The BAcC has considerable reservations about the widespread use of self-needling unless patients are properly taught how to avoid injury by using equipment which is appropriate for self-treatment and how to maintain rigorous health and safety standards for their own protection and for the protection of their families. Treatment from a properly trained and qualified practitioner is the best guarantee of safe and effective treatment.
Monday, 04 May 2009 00:00

What to expect from a treatment

Before having acupuncture treatment

Before your first acupuncture session there are several things you should bear in mind:

  • many commonly used acupuncture points are located on the lower arms and legs, so it is helpful to wear clothing that allows easy access to these areas
  • try not to go for treatment on an empty stomach or straight after a heavy meal
  • do let your practitioner know if you are completely new to acupuncture so they can take extra time to explain what happens and ensure you are comfortable with the process.

Your first consultation

consultation

During your first visit your BAcC acupuncturist needs to gain a thorough understanding of your main complaint and your general health and lifestyle. This involves asking questions about your current symptoms and your medical history, as well as such things as your sleeping pattern, your appetite and digestion, and your emotional wellbeing. Women are also asked about their menstrual cycle and any past pregnancies and childbirth.

You might feel that some questions appear unrelated to your condition but the information you give helps your practitioner to form a more complete picture of your health and lifestyle. Your acupuncturist will also take your pulse on both wrists and may examine your tongue and feel for areas of muscular tension or pain.

Your main health complaint

When talking about your main complaint, the practitioner might ask you to describe in your own words what the symptoms feel like and how severe they are. You may also be asked how long you have been having the symptoms, whether they are constant or intermittent and how frequent they are. You should mention any medication that you are taking and whether you have tried any other therapies.

In order to make a diagnosis according to traditional Chinese medicine theory and to find the right treatment approach, the practitioner will also want to know more specific details.

Treatment plan and treatment

my first consultation

Based on all the information you have given, the practitioner will make a diagnosis and put together your treatment plan, which may include lifestyle and dietary advice as well as acupuncture. Your practitioner will use very fine single-use pre-sterilised needles to stimulate specific acupuncture points on your body. Because energy meridians range across the whole body, the points used are not necessarily close to where you experience pain or discomfort. For example, if you suffer from headaches needles might be inserted in your foot or hand.

Techniques

As well as needling acupuncture points, a traditional acupuncturist may use other Chinese medicine techniques such as:

  • moxibustion: heat is applied to an acupuncture point or meridian using moxa (a therapeutic herb) and/or heat lamps to warm and relax muscles and qi

  • tuina: Chinese therapeutic massage relieves muscle tension, stimulates acupressure points, opens energy meridians and stimulate the flow of qi

  • cupping: glass cups with a vacuum seal are placed on the skin to stimulate blood flow and clear stagnant qi

  • guasha: vigorous rubbing of the skin increases blood flow and clears stagnant qi.

Lifestyle advice

Your acupuncturist is likely to suggest ways in which you can enhance the long-term effects of your treatment. This may involve making changes to your diet and daily routine. If necessary you will be referred to other healthcare practitioners for specialist care.

After-effects

Most people find acupuncture relaxing and often feel very calm after a treatment. You may feel a little tired or sleepy and should take this into account if you are planning to drive or use heavy machinery straight after your treatment.

You should refrain from vigorous exercise after treatment and, ideally, give yourself a little time to rest. It is also advisable not to drink alcohol for several hours after treatment.

Acupuncture has very few side effects and any that do occur are usually mild and self-correcting. Cupping and guasha can sometimes temporarily mark the skin. Such bruising is painless and generally clears within a day or two.

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