ABOUT TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
Q. WHAT IS TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE?
TCM is a complete system of Eastern medicine that uses specialised principles, diagnosis and therapies (Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Tuina, Cupping, Moxibustion and dietary/lifestyle recommendations) to treat disorder and restore energetic and physical balance. It developed over centuries of use in China and is one of the oldest medical systems practiced.
Treatment is designed to stimulate and restore the natural healing to restore health, not to attack the symptoms of a disease but address its root. Diagnosis is reached by formulating a picture of all the client, emotional and physical, and treating the pattern or patterns that emerge.
The human body is an integrated whole whose functions are interconnected in balance and pathology. Although the factors that cause disorder are variable, TCM theory views pathology as having rules of development and outcome. Imbalance is understood in TCM as the conflict and decline between energy (qi) and pathogens and the resulting imbalance of yin, yang and dysfunction of qi, blood and fluids and the zang-fu organs.The aetiology of disease can result from external pathogenic invasion or from internal causes (emotional, overwork, dietary, poor lifestyle and trauma). The process of diagnosis is used to understand the aetiology and subsequently identify the disharmony (syndrome differentiation) to formulate a treatment plan.
Q. WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT THE INITIAL CONSULTATION?
Your first appointment is longer than follow-up sessions to include time for the consultation. You can download the form and bring it with you with you completed. A comprehensive medical and personal history is taken and what you are hoping to gain from your treatment is discussed. Diagnostic examinations will include observation of the tongue, palpation of the pulses and the affected area. If you are coming to see me with a joint, muscle or pain issue, muscle and joint testing and postural and gait assessment are also performed so please wear appropriate underwear – a sports bra and shorts for women is recommended.
A good percentage of the time at this 1st visit is spent talking to you and formulating an initial diagnosis and treatment plan. You will receive an explanation of your pattern/s, how the condition developed and what steps are recommended to resolve it. Depending on the nature and duration of the issue to be treated, one or a combination of modalities will be suggested to achieve the best result. You will receive an acupuncture treatment and any supplementary therapies that are appropriate.
The treatment is given with you lying on a couch, or sometimes seated depending on the reason for your visit.
Subsequent treatments are an hour, although some Integrated Acu-Bodywork sessions can be 90 minutes long.
Q. IS ACUPUNCTURE SAFE?
Sealed sterile single-use fine Japanese needles are used and are disposed of after each treatment. All ATCM members follow a strict code of Safe Practice for needling, moxibustion, hygiene and sterilisation of equipment.
Unlike the side effects associated with western medication, acupuncture is completely natural and is believed to be one of the safest medical treatments, with a very low incidence of adverse effects. The most common side effects of acupuncture are drowsiness or light-headedness for a few hours after treatment and very occasional mild bruising at points needled, although by using a gentle techniques this is uncommon. Cupping treatments can leave dark marks on the skin where the cups were placed, but these resolve within a week.
A full medical history is also taken to rule out any contraindications to treatment.
Q. DOES IT HURT?
The needles are designed to make any discomfort minimal. You may occasionally feel a light prick as they are inserted. Once they are in, some people feel mild tenderness, others a sensation of distention or pressure, numbness, heaviness or tingling or floating along the meridian/limb. Once in place, most people report feeling calm, grounded, drowsy or euphoric.
My policy is to ensure my acupuncture treatments are gentle. I use the best quality Japanese needles (Seirin and Tewa) which have very smooth bodies and tips. I insert them quickly, leave to settle, then return to gently manipulate the needle to obtain De Qi to regulate energy and balance the pulses (De Qi refers to the sensation of energy arriving at the point as described above), then they are left for up to 30 minutes. The only time the needles are manipulated for longer times is when I am trying to travel Qi for musculoskeletal problems, but that usually feels pleasant for the client.
Q. HOW CAN I ENHANCE MY TREATMENT?
For Acupuncture and Bodywork sessions wear loose comfortable clothing that allows you to move or partially disrobe. Mediums such as oil or lotion will require you to undress to your underwear. Discretion is maintained at all times.
Do not eat a heavy meal or drink alcohol before treatment but do not skip food prior to an appointment. Try not to eat or drink foods and fluids that alter the colour of your tongue before an appointment and do not brush your teeth immediately prior to treatment. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid strenuous activities and exercise for at least an hour afterwards.
Q. WHAT CAN I EXPECT AFTER A TREATMENT & HOW MANY WILL I NEED?
The frequency and length of treatments required depends on the severity and nature of the condition. Usually a course of treatments is needed. The length of your course will depend on how chronic or acute your complaint is and your overall state of health. During a course of treatment, you will notice some change after every treatment with a more marked relief in symptoms after 4 to 6 visits, although an immediate improvement often occurs. An acute problem can be treated in 1 or 2 sessions, if treatment is sought immediately. Most chronic conditions will take a minimum of 10 sessions, although musculoskeletal issues can resolve quicker. Infertility usually requires 3 months to a year of treatment with a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine and massage with acupuncture sessions weekly, fortnightly or once a month. Please remember that the longer you have lived with a condition developing the longer it can generally take to resolve it. Your progress is continually monitered and reviewed.
In terms of understanding the financial and time commitment to you, it is recommended that clients commit to 4 treatments: this gives time to evaluate if the therapy is having a positive effect and how long the treatment plan is likely to be.
I will normally ask to see you once a week initially then your visits will be spaced out as your condition improves to fortnightly or every 3 weeks then to once a month. Once the issue has stabilised, periodic maintenance ‘tune-ups’ are often advised, dependent upon the likelihood of reoccurrence. Many clients also decide to have acupuncture regularly to help maintain their health, others come every month or 2 to stay balanced once they have recovered from a complaint as they find that it allows them to negate the effects of a western way of life. Others come for a seasonal treatment 4 times a year as a preventative medicine. These choices will be easier to make when you have had a course of treatment and understand what effects acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have on your physical and emotional health.
Q. HOW DO I TAKE MY HERBAL PRESCRIPTION?
The herbal medicine prescribed is most commonly in the form of concentrated powders that are easily dissolved in hot water and drank like a tea without the need to boil them. The powder may also be put into capsules. This allows the herbs to be taken quickly and easily. Herbal patent pills are pre-prepared classic prescriptions and may also be prescribed if suitable.
Sometimes 2 different formulas or a combination of pills and powders will be given together if most suitable. You will be given instructions as to how to take each.
The herbs come directly to you via recorded delivery to your home or other convenient address as instructed by you at the consultation.
I try to keep the number of herbs used and their dosage high enough to give a good therapeutic effect but low enough to keep costs as low as possible.
Q. CAN I HAVE TREATMENT DURING PREGNANCY?
Absolutely! Acupuncture is an extremely effective treatment during pregnancy during all 3 trimesters, in childbirth and postnatally. Some herbs are also useful and safe for morning sickness and other complaints.
As well as being able to treat common complaints such as nausea, fatigue, anaemia and back pain it can treat other more serious issues like posterior and breech babies and threatened miscarriages and can help to bring blood pressure down. Acupuncture is also superb at boosting your health overall and that of your unborn baby’s and can be used to prepare the body and mind for childbirth. During labour itself acupuncture can be used for pain relief and to promote a natural efficient labour by regulating and strengthening contractions and soothing anxiety. After childbirth, it can help to treat many problems such as mastitis, afterpains, loss of blood, anxiety and exhaustion.
If you and your partner are interested in how acupuncture might be of benefit during and after pregnancy see my page on Pregnancy.
You can also find a wealth of information on the ACT (AcupunctureForChildbirthTeam) London site and read the other mothers experiences here: www.babycenter.com/406_is-it-safe-to-have-acupuncture-during-pregnancy_1246184.bc
Q. SHOULD I LET MY DOCTOR KNOW?
Yes, if you are receiving treatment. You may be having Chinese Medicine because of dissatisfaction with medication, but you must consult with your doctor before stopping or reducing it. You must also let your practitioner know about any medication you are taking.
Q. IS TREATMENT COVERED BY MY HEALTH INSURANCE PROVIDER?
The following companies cover treatment from a member registered with the ATCM. However, please contact your health insurance provider to check your individual policy details.
SimplyHealth (HSA, BCWA, HealthSure, Leeds Hospital Fund, and Totally Active have joined together to form this company)
Sovereign Health Care
HSF Health Plan
Medisure (requires consultant referral)
(Bupa do not recognise Traditional Acupuncture).