I have based the following information on that provided on the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) website 

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a medical technique used to treat a variety of conditions and, during the past few years, it has become increasingly popular.

Acupuncture treatment involves fine needles being inserted through the skin and briefly (anything from 30 secs to 30 minutes) left in position.  Sometimes manual or low voltage electrical stimulation is applied to assist the process. The number of needles varies but may only be 2 or 3. I will assess each patient and treatment will be tailored to you personally; it is therefore impossible to give more than this general idea of what your particular treatment might involve. As needles cannot safely be applied through clothing I will need direct access to your skin to insert the needles. If this requires you to change into a gown I will supply this, but loose clothing is often able to be positioned suitably for treatment.  I only use single use disposable needles.

As a patient you will have an initial assessment, followed by a course of treatment suitable for your condition. However, if I feel that your condition can not be treated with acupuncture, I will recommend you to see another suitable professional - often your GP - or suggest other suitable courses of action.  Treatment may be once a week to begin with, then at longer intervals as the condtion responds. A typical course of treatment lasts 5-8 sessions.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture stimulates the nerves in skin and muscle, and can produce a variety of effects. The stimulation of certain 'trigger points' - probably nerve fibres, receptors or muscle fibre motor units - with needles (with or without electrical stimulation) is thought to induce discharges that cause a release of endoginous opiods and oxytocin.  In English(!) this means that acupuncture can cause the body to release its own natural pain killers (endorphins & oxytocin).

What sorts of conditions respond to acupuncture?

  • Acupuncture is effective in a range of painful conditions and is commonly used for short-term relief of chronic low back pain and neck pain, and can help with knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.
  • There is good evidence that it is effective in the short term relief of tension type headaches and migraine.
  • Short term improvements in the symptoms of overactive bladder syndrome.
This is not a complete list and other conditions have been treated with acupuncture.

Acupuncture - past, present and future

Acupuncture-like techniques may have been used for over 5000 years, if evidence from Ötzi the Iceman is considered; however, the most well known system of acupuncture was developed in the Far East from around 2000 years ago. This was first introduced into Europe in the 17th Century, but widespread interest in the technique did not develop until the political events of the early 1970s allowed travel restrictions between East and West to be eased.

In the past thirty years, because of the huge public interest in the subject, considerable scientific research on acupuncture has been carried out - although much remains to be done. We now know much more about how acupuncture works and some of the myths can be laid to rest. It is demonstrably untrue to say that the results of acupuncture are all in the mind.

As we learn more about it, the possibilities of using acupuncture alongside orthodox medicine increase. The distinction between complementary or alternative medicine and conventional medicine is becoming blurred as acupuncture is accepted in medicine. Acupuncture is already available in most hospital pain clinics and it is provided by an ever-increasing number of GPs and hospital doctors.


At the moment (2017), anybody in the UK is allowed to call themselves an acupuncturist and can start advertising and practising acupuncture immediately, regardless of qualifications or experience. This is not ideal within a healthcare setting, so patients are strongly advised to check the credentials of their practitioner. Acupuncture is a potent therapy, and whilst it is generally safer than most conventional treatments, it should be used with care to avoid serious adverse effects or interactions with other treatments.

The BMAS only trains qualified medical practitioners - such as GPs, nurses and chiropractors. I completed the BMAS basic course (together with Consultants in neurology and oncology) in 2012.  I have subsequently attended further specialised training for acupuncture treatment of headaches, and the use of electro-acupuncture.