Kate Macalister LicAc BSc(Hons) MBAcC
Acupuncture is founded on the stimulation of the body's natural healing mechanism (known in Chinese Medicine as "Qi"). The diagnosis prior to treatment is personalised and takes a holistic view of you as an individual, moving beyond a list of symptoms to tailor treatment for your unique needs. The aim being to improve upon a "one size fits all" approach.
Single use, ultra fine sterile needles are used with guide tubes (read more in Frequently Asked Questions). A low electrical current (similar to a TENS machine) may be put through the needles to increase their effect. Acupuncture points are chosen to fit your personal diagnosis. Points generally occur at sites on the body with a particular concentration of nerves, blood vessels, or muscle attachments (learn more), the most commonly used being below the knee and elbow. Depending on the aim of treatment, needles may be removed immediately or left in for up to 20 minutes. Patients generally value the chance to relax completely and many fall asleep!
Acupressure uses the same points as acupuncture, but avoids the use of needles, making it useful for patients who are anxious about needles or who can't have needles inserted for medical reasons.
Pressure is put on the point either by using the fingers or with specially designed tools.
Auricular (ear) acupuncture involves shallowly inserting tiny needles into the outer ear. The treatment is renowned for its calming, sedative effect, and is therefore often used in hospitals, hospices and community clinics for mental health problems, anxiety, insomnia, pain and addiction. It's also been used more recently to help menopausal symptoms. Ear seeds can be applied before you leave, so that the treatment continues to work afterwards.
Cupping is used to stimulate individual points (cups are left on for up to 20 minutes) or to relax and stimulate circulation in larger areas of the body (the practitioner slides the cup back and forth across oiled skin). It is effectively a "reverse massage", in that a vacuum is created inside the cup, which pulls the skin and tissue up into the cup.
By creating space between the layers of tissue, circulation is increased and inflammation reduced. It's especially useful for aches and pains, chronic pain and tense muscles. Cupping isn't painful, with a sensation similar to massage, but the vacuum created can leave red marks on the skin for 3-7 days after treatment. It can be used on its own or alongside other techniques.
Guasha involves a single use tool being used to press into and scrape the skin, having first applied oil so that the tool slides easily over the muscles. It feels like a firm massage, and is used mainly for musculoskeletal problems, but also for coughs and colds. It's wonderful for relaxing tight muscles. It leaves a mark, like cupping, which may last up to 7 days.
Infrared heat therapy is used to improve circulation and reduce pain, in everything from gynaecological conditions to joint pain.