Your questions answered

  • I am scared of needles
  • How many sessions will I need?
  • What can I do to help me benefit from acupuncture treatment?
  • What are the five elements?

I am scared of needles

People have usually experienced needles in a western medical setting – having blood tests for example – so it is quite common to expect something similar in acupuncture treatment. In fact, acupuncture treatment is nothing like having blood taken! Acupuncture needles are incredibly fine – thinner than a human hair. Rather than inserting into veins as is done for blood tests or other western interventions acupuncture needles are only inserted into specific points of energy on the body. This is a very different sensation and will differ from person to person. Some people feel very little and some people feel a slight pull or a dull ache when the energy moves.

I have successfully treated people who have initially been scared of needles or are worried about needle insertion. If you feel that you would like to try acupuncture but have concerns about the needles it might be best to come for an initial chat first.

In rare cases patients do not wish to be treated with needles for their course of treatment. For these patients it may be possible to treat with the use of a herb known as moxa. Moxa is used to warm up the acupuncture points at a rate readily accepted by the body, which effects change in a similar way to acupuncture needles.

I often use this herb in conjunction with needles. However, many practitioners in Japan treat solely with moxa and provide a valuable treatment for their patients. Eligibility for moxa-only treatment will depend on your current health – so please contact me or drop in to discuss this with me.

How many sessions will I need?

This will be different for every person and depends very much on what you want to get out of acupuncture treatment. For some people benefits can be felt almost immediately whilst for others improvement is more gradual. In all cases I recommend an initial treatment package of a diagnosis and five treatments to ensure benefits felt are maintained. The aim of the treatment package is to effect change and to maintain it for increasing lengths of time.

Each time you attend for acupuncture treatment your practitioner is building on the previous treatment.  Some people attend for a short course and feel this has achieved what they wanted it to. Others wish to pursue deeper levels of healing and will continue with regular treatment for a little longer. Many people choose to attend for maintenance sessions.  Maintenance sessions may be given every 3-12 weeks and this is entirely at the patient’s discretion.

What can I do to help me benefit from acupuncture treatment?

It is important to eat something at least 2-3 hours before an acupuncture treatment. Ideally, avoid caffeine and alcohol for 24 hours before and after treatment. Many people feel very relaxed after an acupuncture treatment. If you can, plan treatments for a time when you are able to chill out or do something you enjoy straight afterwards.

I am able to give you advice on lifestyle and diet – tailored to your unique constitution based on Chinese Medical principles. Giving me as much information as you can during the traditional diagnosis will help me to tailor this information for your maximum benefit.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me or the British Acupuncture Council. A message book is also available in the Twelve Rivers waiting room in Stow-on-the-Wold.

What are the five elements?

The five elements, or wu xing, are water, wood, fire, earth and metal. Wu Xing actually translates as five phases or five movements and describes the relationship between natural phenomena.

Five phase theory is the classical basis for acupuncture as well as many martial arts. The five energetic phases can best be understood by observing the varying energetics of the seasons – Spring (wood), Summer (fire), Late summer (earth), Autumn (metal) and Winter (water). Note that the Chinese understand late summer to be a distinct phase.

The ancient Chinese understood man to be part of the natural world around him. He is therefore made up of a dynamic interplay of the five elements and the laws that govern their movement (Spring follows winter for example). The nourishing or generating cycle that exists between the elements is one of these laws:

  • Wood feeds Fire
  • Fire creates Earth (ash)
  • Earth bears Metal
  • Metal carries Water (as in a bucket or tap, or water condenses on metal)
  • Water nourishes Wood

As five element practitioners we are trained to understand the five phases and how they manifest in people – both in balance and in imbalance. This helps us to identify the root cause of symptoms, and, more importantly to select the appropriate points on the body to affect change across the system.

All of the major organs of the body work in pairs which are associated with one of the five elements. The functions or qualities of the organs therefore mirror functions and qualities in the associated element or season. So, for example, the stomach which is responsible for ‘rotting and ripening’ our food is associated with the earth element and late summer – when the earth’s produce is ripening, ready to be harvested to provide essential nutrition.

Five phase theory is a good way of understanding why acupuncture can help with emotional and psychological problems as well as physical symptoms. This is because each element is associated with an emotion. So, for example, the heart is associated with fire (summer) and the emotion joy.

When the heart is in balance it is able to govern the blood and the circulation and provide essential life to the other organs. We are able to take joy in life. If the heart is not working at its optimum, or is having to work harder to compensate for other organs, symptoms may be experienced. Symptoms might include tiredness, insomnia or feeling too hot or too cold as a result of poor circulation (we all know the age-old adage ‘cold hands, warm heart’!). On an emotional level we may feel a bit blue as joy is lacking in our lives.

These symptoms are often subtle and temporary and we may feel better with exercise or a good night’s sleep, but for others there may be an increasing inability to take joy in life and this can develop into experiences commonly termed depression.

It is too simplistic to say that the root of all depression is the heart, but it is likely that the heart is implicated in some way – perhaps very subtly. Correcting the balance of energy across the system can help the heart to function more effectively and patients will often feel better in themselves from just one or two treatments. As the five phases begin to work more harmoniously together, a person is able to move into a better relationship with themselves and the world around them.