Your first consultation may be longer than subsequent sessions. The acupuncturist will assess your general state of health in order to identify the underlying patterns of disharmony and give you the most effective treatment.
Stimulating specific points affects the functioning of certain organs in the body. However, those points may not be close to the part of the body where the problem is experienced. For example, although you may suffer from headaches, needles may be inserted in your foot or hand.
A selection of perhaps ten or twelve points may be used for each treatment, and it is quite usual for different points to be selected as your condition changes during a course of treatment.
Needle treatment may be supplemented with moxa, a smouldering herb which is used to warm acupuncture points to encourage the body’s energy to flow smoothly.
Moxa sticks are used for larger areas such as back, lower abdomen or tracking alone meridian channels. Individual points can be targetted using moxa on the ends of the needles or directly over the points.
Cupping is another technique – cups make of either bamboo or glass are applied to the surface of the skin by vacuum which is induced either by a flame or suction. It is often used for joint problems and is also commonly used on the back where it helps in clearing the common cold.
Gua Sha has a similar effect, but without the vacuum: an aromatic oil is applied and the skin is rubbed or scraped to stimulate surface circulation and release conjestion.
Therapeutic massage or Tuina (twee-nar) is particularly suitable for small children or people with a fear of needles. Diagnosis and treatment are based on the same principles as acupuncture – the traditional Chinese medical theory of the flow of qi around the body. Specific techniques are used to work on the meridians and on points, to harmonise and balance qi allowing the body to heal itself naturally. The benefits of tuina frequently include more than just relief from pain. Many people find that it can also lead to increased energy levels, as well as better appetite and sleep, and an enhanced sense of overall wellbeing. Children love tuina and treatment involves teaching a parent or guardian how to continue with basic movements so that treatment can continue between appointments at home.