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Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into special acupuncture points on the body to treat a wide range of illnesses. Acupuncture can be safely given to anyone, young or old. It can be used during pregnancy, but some of the points must be avoided.

What happens at a session?

Your first acupuncture session will last an hour or 75 minutes. The acupuncturist will ask about your current symptoms and what treatments you have received so far, past medical history, family history, current living and working conditions, diet and digestive system, emotions, sleeping patterns and so on. The acupuncturist will also feel your pulses on both wrists and look at your tongue. Once the practitioner has made a diagnosis, you may be asked to undress totally or partially, depending on what points are to be needled, and to lie on a couch for the treatment. Points will then be needled, usually on both sides of the body. The needles will usually be left in place for 10-30 minutes, and the acupuncturist may manipulate the needles from time to time.

Sometime the needles will not be left in but removed after a second or two.

Subsequent sessions will usually last 45 minutes. It isn’t possible to say exactly how many acupuncture treatments you will need, but most people notice some change after five treatments.

What does acupuncture feel like?

Because acupuncture needles are very fine, people usually just feel a slight prick when an acupuncture needle is inserted; they do not hurt in the same way that needles used to give injections or take blood do. While the needle is in place, it shouldn’t hurt. In fact, you may not feel anything or you may feel a tingling or dull ache around the needle. Many people say they feel relaxed and even sleepy during an acupuncture treatment. 

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is generally a safe treatment. Mild, short lasting side effects occasionally include: minor bleeding (a drop of blood) or superficial bruising, pain during treatment (usually at a needled site) in about 1% of treatments; and temporary worsening of existing symptoms after treatment. A few people feel drowsy after treatment; those affected shouldn’t drive afterwards.

All practitioners will observe a code of safe practice which lays down stringent standards of hygiene and requires the use of sterile disposable needles. 

British Acupuncture Council 

Northern Ireland Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine