Acupuncture and Cupping
“Through acupuncture and cupping, more than half of the ills are cured,”
- a famous Chinese saying from The Yellow Emperors' Classic of Medicine.
Acupuncture is a key component of Traditional Chines Medicine (TCM), and is most commonly used to treat pain by balancing the flow of energy - known as chi or qi - believed to flow through pathways in the body. Acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles into the body at strategic acupuncture points to treat different health issues. Acupuncture can help relieve pain and treat a wide range of other complaints.
Firstly, I carry out an in-depth health consultation which involves taking a full medical history and discussing the health issues that concern you the most. If you’ve undergone medical tests or procedures that are related to your health issues, I will usually ask to see test results and medical reports at your first appointment. We will talk about your diet and any lifestyle factors that could be associated with your health concerns. As part of the Chinese medical diagnostic checks, I will also take a look at your tongue and take a pulse reading.
At the end of your consultation I will advise you if I think acupuncture can help you and if, so, what course of treatment I would recommend.
If a course of acupuncture treatment is the best way forward, this will usually start during your initial consultation. Acupuncture is usually carried out on the abdomen or on the back, and on the forearms and lower legs. In my clinic, I will ask you to make yourself comfortable on the treatment couch, raise your top to expose your abdomen or lower back and roll up your sleeves and trouser legs. I recommend wearing loose and comfortable clothing such as a T-shirt or jogging bottoms that can be easily pulled up or removed.
Acupuncture needles (single-use and pre-sterilised) are much thinner than injection or syringe needles - about the thickness of a strand of hair - and therefore doesn't feel the same as an injection. I have developed a very gentle needling technique and patients are often surprised to find the sensation of the needles to be quite pleasant, with most patients describing feelings of tingling, gentle pressure or a heaviness once needles are placed.
Once the acupuncture needles are in place, I will make sure you’re warm and comfortable and will then ask you to relax for around 30 minutes. Many patients describe feeling a deep sense of relaxation during and after the session. I recommend that patients rest (if possible) after the treatment, avoid alcohol and caffeine immediately after the treatment, and drink plenty of water for the rest of the day.
If you have any questions about acupuncture or wish to make an appointment, do get in touch by email.
Who can receive acupuncture?
Acupuncture can be helpful for a wide range of symptoms and my success stories page showcases the diversity of patients and symptoms that have been helped so far.
Official peer-reviewed scientific publications from various healthcare bodies and research groups around the world recommend that acupuncture be considered for a number of conditions, with the strongest support for conditions such as:
Lower back pain (American Academy of Family Physicians 2017);
Tension-type headaches, migraines and prevention of migraines (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence 2012, Linde et al. 2016);
Chronic musculoskeletal pain (Vickers et al. 2017)
Post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting (National Institutes of Health 1997);
Nausea of pregnancy (National Institutes of Health 1997);
Menopausal symptoms (Lund et al. 2018);
Post-operative dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction (National Institutes of Health 1997, World Health Organisation 2002);
Menstrual cramps, morning sickness, breech presentation during pregnancy, labour induction (National Institutes of Health 1997, World Health Organisation 2002);
Tennis elbow (National Institutes of Health 1997, World Health Organisation 2002);
Fibromyalgia (National Institutes of Health 1997, World Health Organisation 2002, Zhang et al. 2019);
Osteoarthritis of the knee, neck pain (World Health Organisation 2002, Witt et al. 2006, Vickers et al. 2017);
Allergic rhinitis including hayfever (World Health Organisation 2002, Witt et al. 2009, Panagiotis et al. 2017,).
Please note that the list above is an example of medical conditions for which good quality randomised controlled trials involving Western populations have been carried out. If the condition or the symptoms for which you are seeking help is not shown above, please get in touch with me to see if I can still help you.
In 2003 the World Health Organisation (WHO) published an official report listing the symptoms, conditions and diseases (see list below) shown in controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture:
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Tennis elbow
- Knee pain
- Peri-arthritis of the shoulder
- Facial pain
- Dental pain
- Acute and chronic gastritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Induction of labor
- Breech birth presentation
- Morning sickness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Postoperative pain
- Essential hypertension
- Primary hypotension
- Renal colic
- Radiation/chemo reactions
- Allergic rhinitis,
- Hay fever
- Biliary colic
- Acute bacillary dysentery
- Primary dysmenorrhea
- Acute epigastralgia
- Peptic ulcer
Cupping has been practised for thousands of years and is an ancient healing therapy used to ease pain. Cups are placed on your back, arms, legs or other parts of your body. Cupping is used to relieve musculoskeletal pain and relax the nervous system. It is also used to treat other internal conditions.
There are several ways that a practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method uses vacuum cups to suck out the air whilst the cup is on the skin. The other method uses “fire cups”. This involves dipping a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and then lighting it. The swab is then inserted into the cup to draw out the air. The cup is immediately placed against the skin so that the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held in the cup. Oils applied to the skin before cupping create a barrier between the cup and the skin so the skin is protected.
The side effects of cupping are mild and there is usually very little (if any) sensation of discomfort. Skin discolouration should be expected but should return to looking normal within 10 days. It is useful to be aware of this especially if you had plans to wear a bikini or swim trunks on the beach, although showing off your cupping marks is not something to be ashamed of these days!
Contraindications for cupping include:
- areas of skin that are inflamed
- high fever
- easy bleeding (i.e., pathological level of low platelets)
- abdominal area or lower back during pregnancy
- Respiratory diseases - common colds, chronic bronchitis, asthma
- Digestive diseases - constipation, improving digestion and metabolism
- Pain - musculoskeletal pain/tightness, joint issues, nerve pain, headache, muscle spasm
- Gynaecological disorders - infertility, irregular menstruation, painful periods
- To improve circulation and help with lymph drainage
- Can aid with weight loss and reduce the appearance of cellulite surrounding area.
(This list is not exhaustive but rather a general indication of how cupping can be used either alone or in conjunction with other therapies.)
As health practitioners and researchers continue to study the benefits of cupping, this traditional alternative care technique will gain further acceptance and wider practice across holistic healthcare centres as an effective treatment for a wide variety of ailments.
Cupping Combined With Acupuncture and Tui Na
Generally, cupping is combined with acupuncture and Tui Na in one treatment, but it can also be used alone. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure).
In my opinion, cupping is one of the best deep-tissue therapies available. It is thought to affect tissue up to four inches deep from the external skin. Toxins can be released, blockages can be cleared, and veins and arteries can be refreshed within these four inches. Even hands, wrists, legs and ankles can be ‘cupped,’ thus applying the healing to specific organs that correlate with these points.