Frequently Asked Questions | FAQs | Ming Chen Clinics Edinburgh Glasgow

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture has existed as part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for  over 5,000 years. It is based on the belief that living beings have a vital energy, called "Qi", that circulates through twelve invisible energy lines known as meridians on the body. Each meridian is associated with a different organ system. An imbalance in the flow of Qi throughout a meridian is how disease begins.

Acupuncturists insert needles into specified points along meridian lines to influence the restore balance to the flow of qi. There are over 1,000 acupuncture points on the body.

What can Acupuncture do for me?

You may wish to have acupuncture to help with a specific symptom or condition such as osteoarthritis of the knee. Many people also choose to have acupuncture in order to help maintain good health, improve a sense of wellbeing, or as a preventive measure. Our practitioners are always happy to advise on any problems you may have, and will refer you to your GP should they consider this appropriate. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence made a recommendation in 2009 that acupuncture should be available on NHS for the management of early, persistent non-specific lower back pain. To find out more about the latest scientific research into acupuncture, visit or speak to one of our practitioners.

What will happen on my first visit?

Generally, your first visit is longer than your subsequent sessions or at the very least it entails consultation. The practitioner needs to assess your general state of health in order to identify the underlying patterns of disharmony and give you the most effective treatment.

You will be asked about your current symptoms and what treatment you have received so far, your medical history and that of your close family, your diet, digestive system, sleeping patterns and emotional state. Once enough information has been gathered to determine the likely causes of your problems, the practitioner can select the most appropriate treatment.

To discover how the energies are flowing in your body, the practitioner is likely to feel your pulses on both wrists, noting their quality, rhythm and strength. The structure, colour and coating of your tongue also give a good guide to your physical health. The aim is to discover which energy channels need adjusting for your specific complaint to improve, and which require treatment to boost your overall energy and vitality.

After the initial consultation (or on your follow-up visit) and the checking of your pulse and tongue, your practitioner will form a  session plan and begin the acupuncture sessions, based on your individual condition and the style of acupuncture practiced by your practitioner.

What does it feel like?

The needles used within acupuncture are both sterile and extremely thin. Most people are surprised to see how thin the needles actually are. The sensation you will feel when a needle is inserted is generally fairly minimal. It is often described as a tingling or dull ache while in others the needle will be rotated slightly until you feel a heavy or distended feeling indicating the arrival of Qi. Needles may be inserted and immediately removed, or may be left in place for thirty minutes or more, depending on the effect required. During treatment, patients commonly experience a pleasant feeling of relaxation. The benefits of acupuncture frequently include more than just relief from a particular condition. Many people find that it can also lead to increased energy levels, as well as better appetite and sleep, and an enhanced sense of overall well-being.

How long will the session last?

The session is usually about an hour long. After the needles are inserted you are usually left to rest for a period of 15 - 25 minutes. Within some styles the needles are inserted quickly and removed immediately and in others they are left in for a longer period of time. Most people feel fairly relaxed during this period and many simply fall asleep.

In many cases your treatment may consist of points on the front and back of your body so the practitioner may insert needles on the front, let you rest for awhile and then remove them, have you turn over and continue the treatment on your back.

What other techniques may be part of my treatment?

Acupuncture is simply one facet of oriental medicine. Within an acupuncture treatment an acupuncturist may choose to utilize various adjunctive techniques depending on your condition and their training. These may include the following:

  • Electro-acupuncture - the acupuncture needles are stimulated with an electric charge delivered from a machine. This is used often and effectively in patients dealing with pain.
  • Moxibustion - this involves the burning of an herb - Artemesia Vulgaris - either on the top of a needle or on the skin directly. This is used often in patients who are dealing with cold or stagnant conditions such as certain types of abdominal cramps.
  • Cupping - this involves the use of glass or plastic cups which are placed on the body with suction to help remove toxins and muscle tension. They are used often in patients with immune issues such as a cold as well as for pain.
  • Tuina - this is essentially massage that is targeted towards the meridians and acupuncture points. It is used for a wide variety of conditions.

What should I do before treatment?

You should try not to have a large meal within an hour of your appointment as the process of digestion will alter the pattern of your pulse. You should also avoid alcohol, and food or drinks which colour your tongue, such as coffee, immediately prior to treatment. It is helpful to wear loose, comfortable clothing for your treatment and you should be aware that your acupuncturist may need access to points on your torso as well as on your arms and legs.

How will I feel after acupuncture?

You may feel rather relaxed and calm. If the treatment has been particularly strong you could feel quite tired or drowsy for a few hours, and you should take this into account if you are planning to drive or use machinery. Occasionally there may be a short-term flair-up of your symptoms as your Qi clears and resettles itself. 

After the session it is common for an acupuncturist to offer a basic plan together with advice on various beneficial lifestyle changes which may help to improve your overall condition. This may include dietary changes, exercise, meditation, etc. Exercises such as Tai Chi or various styles of Qi Gong are often recommended, although simple activities such as walking or bicycle riding are also beneficial.

What about the needles used?

We use single-use pre-sterilised disposable needles, which are disposed of immediately after use.

Is it safe?

There have been three surveys in the last six years which have shown that acupuncture is amongst the safest therapies in use in the UK today. Out of 68,000 recorded treatments in two of the 2001 surveys, there were only 14 minor (bruising, feeling nauseous) adverse events. Minor bleeding after removal of the needles, bruise and dizziness are among those adverse effects. There have been very few reports of serious adverse events, and most adverse effects are transient, lasting no more than a day or so.

How many sessions will I need?

A definitive plan is always difficult to formulate, especially following an initial consultation. After the first 2-3 sessions, however, your practitioner should have a good understanding of your condition and be able to offer you a reasonable idea of how many sessions you will need. This often varies between patients. Most people who have a course of acupuncture usually notice changes after four to six sessions. Your practitioner will review your progress with you from time to time, and carefully monitor your progress to ensure that it matches your needs.

What should I look for in an acupuncturist?

As well as checking that they are registered with a professional body and have appropriate insurance cover, you may find that your personal rapport with the practitioner is important. It is helpful to find a practitioner with whom you feel comfortable, who understands what you want from treatment, and who can explain clearly what they expect acupuncture might do for you.

Should I my tell my Doctor?

We recommend that you continue with any prescribed medication you are taking and that you tell your doctor that you are planning to have acupuncture. You should also let your acupuncturist know about any medication and supplements you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment?. Our practitioners are trained to recognise potentially serious underlying health conditions and may refer you to your GP if they consider it appropriate.