Acupuncture Frequently asked questions

What should I expect from my first consultation?
What should I do before treatment?
What will the acupuncturist actually do?
Do the needles hurt?
How will I feel after receiving acupuncture treatment?
How many treatments will I need?
What does acupuncture cost?
Does acupuncture have side effects?
Is acupuncture safe?
Where does my GP fit into all this?
Should I discontinue my prescribed medication if I begin to feel better after acupuncture treatment?
Is acupuncture available on the GMS?
I am a frequent blood donor, can I have acupuncture treatment?
Do acupuncture and TCM have limits?


What should I expect from my first consultation?

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The first consultation will take about an hour. Follow up visits may be slightly shorter. A detailed case history (including your medical case history & GP contact details) will be taken, and I may ask you questions that appear irrelevant to your condition such as social habits, family history, diet, your emotional status, etc. Health is not purely a physical issue, and professional acupuncurists aim to gain a broad understanding of our clients’ state of well-being. You may be a little nervous about your first visit, so I will try to put you at your ease as best as I can. Usually, I will do a short treatment on your first visit.

What should I do before treatment?

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Try not to have a big meal within 2 hours of your appointment as the process of digestion will alter your pulse. Also avoid alcohol and drinks containing caffeine (coffee, Coke etc,) and other stimulants. Also avoid eating or drinking anything which could temporally change the natural colour of your tongue e.g. beetroot, chocolate, coloured sweets etc.

Since I may need to insert needles in your back, abdomen etc., (don’t be afraid – the process is virtually painless – see below) it is best to wear loose, casual clothing. I am always mindful of your right to privacy and modesty. Most needles are placed between the elbows and hands and knees and feet, so usually all that is needed is to pull up your sleeves and trouser legs.

What will the acupuncturist actually do?

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Having taken the detailed case history mentioned above, I may take your blood pressure, look at your tongue and spend time taking your pulses. Having arrived at a diagnosis and treatment protocol, I will then outline this to you. If there is anything you do not understand please feel free to ask questions. Our relationship is a partnership, and I welcome dialogue. I will clearly explain where needles are to be inserted and for how long. I may also use moxibustion and cupping techniques, and I will explain these to you fully, as well. I often offer dietary advice.

If your condition is of a musculoskeletal nature (e.g. back pain, muscle strain, tendonitis etc.), I may use a small battery-powered TENS machine attached to the needles. If you are in any doubt at any time as to what is going on, please just ask, and I’ll be happy to explain. I promise: there is a very good reason why needles are being inserted into your feet when your problem is a headache!

Do the needles hurt?

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Most people’s experience of needles is that of those used to give injections, take blood etc. Acupuncture needles differ from these hypodermic syringes in that they are much finer and solid rather than hollow. Acupuncture needles are designed to part the skin without cutting the tissues. The sterile stainless steel needles are commonly used with a diameter of between 0.25mm to 0.45mm – about the thickness of a human hair.

You may experience a slight prick as the needle penetrates the skin, but this is a momentary experience. Most people would describe the feeling as painless, or no more painful than plucking out a hair. What happens after the needle is inserted is of much more importance, and I will ask you to provide feedback on what you are feeling Remember, this is a partnership.. Most people feel a dull ache, tingling or feeling of heaviness or numbness around the area where the needle is, occasionally a mild electrical pulsation radiating away from the site of the needle is felt. Reactions such as these are of vital clinical importance to the acupuncturist and signify that the Qi has been accessed, i.e. De Chi (pronounced De Chee). The needles are then left in place from 15 to 30 minutes and may be occasionally manipulated by the Practitioner. During this time you should feel quite comfortable. Many people find it very relaxing, and some even drift into sleep.

Removal of the needles causes no discomfort , although minor bleeding may sometimes occur which can be stemmed with a cotton swab. I may also insert needles into the surface of your ear (‘auricular acupuncture’) depending on your condition. Some facial acupoints may bruise slightly ,so if a minor facial bruise bothers you, let me know. I can usually choose another acupoint elsewhere on your body.

It is vital that you tell your practitioner if you suffer from any diseases transmissible by blood (e.g. HIV, AIDS, hepatitis etc.) or if you are on any blood thinning medication,. These facts should come out during our Case History discussion, but you must disclose them.

It is also vital to let me know if you are (or even suspect that you might be) pregnant, as some acupoints are not used during pregnancy, and neither you nor your practitioner will want to take any unnecessary risks with your pregnancy.

How will I feel after receiving acupuncture treatment?

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Acupuncturists sometimes categorise patients into Strong Responders and Weak Responders . Some people will experience some relief of their symptoms after one treatment while others will require several treatments to experience any benefits. Most people would describe the actual treatment itself as relaxing and calming.

Sometimes 24 to 48 hours after treatment some people will feel slight mood changes as well as physiological reactions such as changes in bladder and bowel function. In some cases a person’s symptoms may become worse. This usually indicates to the acupuncturist that the body is responding to treatment and that this is a transitory phase. However if you feel particularly bothered about any aspect of your health, or your symptoms are worsening beyond your tolerance or you develop new symptoms then I will always encourage you to contact your GP.

How many treatments will I need?

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There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on so many variables such as the nature of your condition, your overall health, how long you have had this particular condition, your response to acupuncture treatment and, indeed, the skill and experience of your chosen practitioner.

As once-off miracle cures are still rare, you should commit yourself to a course of treatment and be prepared to give it a chance. Usually, if your condition is going to respond, then you can expect to see results after about four to six treatments. Acupuncture treatments seem to have a cumulative effect, with each treatment building on the effects of the previous treatments. It is thus not unusual to see little or no improvement after the earlier treatments but to suddenly experience an improvement in your condition after about the seventh or eighth treatments as if you had passed some kind of threshold. This is why it is important to commit to a course of treatments. However, if you are experiencing no improvement after about 10-12 treatments you may be one of those people whose condition is not amenable to acupuncture. Acupuncture is a very personal treatment, varying in effectiveness from person to person. This is why I take the time to get to know each client personally and thoroughly. Even in those rare cases when the treatment is ineffective for you, I will likely be able to refer you to another practitioner who has had success with conditions similar to yours.

What does acupuncture cost?

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Each acupuncture session costs €60. I leave an hour for each person and therefore would very much appreciate as much notice as possible if you need to cancel or rearrange.

Does acupuncture have side effects?

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Generally not. Acupuncture is about re-balancing the body’s energy, and quite often a sense of relaxation and general wellbeing results after a course of treatments. Because of this re-balancing effect, other conditions may resolve or become less bothersome while you are undergoing treatment for a different condition. The most common side effects are bruising (if this occurs it is usually minor and should go away quickly), tiredness after treatments (again temporary) and occasionally soreness around the area being treated (this, too, should be short term if it happens at all).

Is acupuncture safe?

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Yes. Acupuncture is a safe form of treatment when performed by a well trained, conscientious practitioner who has a good knowledge of human anatomy and who uses single-use sterile disposable needles. As a member of the TCMCI I am bound by a strict Code of Clinical Practice – which includes the use of sterile single-use disposable needles.

Where does my GP fit into all this?

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I recommend that you keep in regular contact with your GP. Acupuncture treatment is best viewed as a part of your healthcare régime and does not replace the need for regular check-ups and treatments where necessary.

Often I recommend that patients see their GP either before or during acupuncture courses if necessary. Remember, by sensibly combining Eastern and Western medical systems you can avail of the ‘best of both worlds.’

Should I discontinue my prescribed medication if I begin
to feel better after acupuncture treatment?

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The unequivocal answer to this is no! The decision to prescribe medication is made by your GP, having evaluated your condition and based on many years of training and clinical experience. You should never change your medication regimen without consulting your GP and getting his/her agreement.

Many people seek acupuncture treatment because of dissatisfaction with medication. Perhaps it doesn’t seem to be working, or the side effects are unacceptable. If this is the case you should review this with your GP who may be able to select a different drug or vary the treatment protocol. While you may begin to feel better after several acupuncture treatments and feel that you are less reliant on your medication, never discontinue prescribed medication without reviewing this with your GP.

Is acupuncture available on the GMS?

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Acupuncture is not available for reimbursement on the GMS at the present time despite several reports calling for acupuncture to be made available on the GMS and within HSE hospitals.

The cost of Acupuncture treatment is re-imbursable by VHI’s and BUPA’s Outpatient Schemes, and Members of the TCMCI are recognised by VHI/BUPA in this regard (check your policy and excess for details)

I am a frequent blood donor. Will this affect my ability to get Acupuncture treatment?

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The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) stipulates that you cannot donate blood if you have had acupuncture treatment within the previous 6 months unless the treatment was administered by a GP. If you have any doubts about this then ring the IBTS Donor info line 1850 731 137 or check their website at www.ibts.ie

Do acupuncture and TCM have limits?

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Of course they do. Acupuncture and TCM are powerful healing systems, but they are not panaceas, nor are they the solution to every health problem. Both Western medicine and TCM have their respective strengths and weaknesses, which is why, in modern China, the two systems are used together. When appropriately combined, both systems have a synergistic effect which serves the patient well.

As a broad rule, acute life threatening conditions are best dealt with by Western medicine. Routine and chronic conditions for which drug therapy and surgery have not been effective often benefit from acupuncture/TCM.