Interview with Mandy, Traditional Chinese Acupuncturist
What made you want to be an acupuncturist?
My adventure into the world of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine began when I experienced Reiki for the first time. Experiencing this form of energy healing made me want to learn more and encouraged me to train as a Reiki practitioner up to Level 2. After practicing for a while I decided I wanted to train in a form of therapy that was much more widely accepted and acupuncture was the perfect choice.
Where did you train and what are your qualifications?
When I first looked into training as an acupuncturist, I thought it would just be a case of doing an online course or similar. However, it took me 5 years of part-time study at Manchester Metropolitan University to obtain my BSc (hons) Acupuncture and I don’t regret a moment of it. Traditional Chinese medicine is extremely complex and not something that can be learned online or over a weekend.
How does acupuncture work?
This is a little difficult to answer as there are two different schools of thought on how acupuncture works. From a Western perspective, acupuncture works by stimulating the production of various pain- and stress-relieving chemicals in the body such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. From a more Eastern perspective, acupuncture is about restoring balance in the body by manipulating the body’s natural energy pathways or channels. As an acupuncturist, I believe that everyone’s body has its own ability to heal and acupuncture encourages this natural function.
Acupuncture has a cumulative effect which means that a course of treatments is often recommended rather than just a one-off. This is similar to a course of antibiotics but without the chemicals. Regular assessment and communication between practitioner and patient is key to ensuring the correct number of treatments for that patient.
What are the benefits of acupuncture?
Acupuncture treats the body without the introduction of foreign chemicals or medications. It is a natural form of healing with very few side-effects, suitable for people of all ages from infants to elderly.
What conditions can acupuncture help with?
Many people think of acupuncture for pain relief and it is extremely effective. Especially for conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia and sciatica. What most don’t realise is that acupuncture can treat a myriad of conditions including mental health, reproductive and digestive issues. It has also been shown effective in treating the symptoms of chemotherapy side-effects, multiple sclerosis and even stroke.
What does it feel like – does it hurt?
The needles used in acupuncture are extremely fine – finer than a human hair. They are inserted into specific points with a quick tap using a plastic guide tube to ensure the correct placement and angle of the needle. You may or may not feel the initial insertion as a slight sensation but once the needle is in, there should be no discomfort or pain. It is common to feel a dull ache or a pulling sensation at the needle site and this is an indicator that the treatment is working and is not unpleasant.
Would you be able to treat someone who has a needle phobia?
Not many people like needles so there is nothing wrong with being a little apprehensive of a first treatment. As a practitioner I would never continue a treatment if a patient is uncomfortable. I would start with a single needle and if that is tolerated well will continue to add, checking on the patient as we go. Needles can be removed at any time if something becomes uncomfortable. Another alternative may be to try a few needles in the ear rather than the body. This is often more easily tolerated by those who are a little nervous and the patient can move about if need be.
Do I need to do anything specific before a treatment?
Before coming in for treatment I would recommend having something to eat and drink. As we are working with the body’s energy it is important to have some energy to work with! It is also a good idea to wear loose-fitting clothing to minimise the need to undress for treatments. Avoid alcohol or recreational substance prior to treatment as this can hinder the effectiveness.
How will I feel afterwards?
Most patients find acupuncture extremely relaxing and many fall asleep during the treatment. Afterwards, you may feel a little light-headed in which case I would ensure you feel fully fit before leaving the centre. Generally you should feel a sense of wellbeing and relaxation. Your symptoms may not improve straight away but often they do.
Are there any side effects?
There is a very slight chance of bruising at the needle site. If a patient is on blood thinners or has a metal allergy this needs to be made clear when booking the treatment as certain allowances will have to be made. Other than that there are very few side-effects to acupuncture.
Will acupuncture still work on someone who is sceptical about it?
While we do not guarantee the efficacy of a treatment, belief in acupuncture is not a pre-requisite. I have successfully treated many a sceptic. The only way to find out is to book an appointment!
How safe is acupuncture?
We use sterile, single-use needles in our treatments and must adhere to strict regulations under the British Acupuncture Council Code of Safe Practice. Acupuncture is often considered one of the safest forms of treatment for many conditions when carried out by a suitably qualified practitioner.
How does traditional Chinese acupuncture differ from medical acupuncture?
Medical acupuncture, often referred to as “dry needling” is performed by physiotherapists or GPs who have undergone a minimal amount of training and generally involves sticking needles in specific pain-relieving points or trigger points. With Traditional Chinese Medicine, we treat the body holistically and look to treat the root cause of the problem and not just the symptoms. This is why we undertake a full medical history check at the first treatment and at each successive treatment we reassess prior to needling to see if any adjustments need to be made and why traditional Chinese acupuncture is more effective than medical acupuncture.