This page is for teenagers who may be wondering about whether acupuncture is the right treatment option for them.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the longest established forms of healthcare in the world. It takes three and a half years to to become an acupuncturist. During this time, as well as learning the theory and practice of Chinese medicine, some conventional medicine is learned too. You can trust that any acupuncturist who belongs to a professional body called the British Acupuncture Council (www.acupuncture.org.uk) has received appropriate training.
Acupuncturists are trained to use subtle diagnostic techniques that have been developed and refined for thousands of years. The focus is on you as an individual, not your illness, and all symptoms are seen in relation to each other. Treatment involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body to affect the flow of your body’s qi, or vital energy.
Is it painful?
No, it isn’t painful. Acupuncture needles are so fine that most people don’t feel them being inserted. It is normal to feel a mild tingle or dull ache as the acupuncturist adjusts the needle to direct Qi. While the needles are in place most people feel deeply relaxed which can continue after they are removed.
The comparison below shows you just how fine an acupuncture needle is:
What kind of conditions does acupuncture treat?
Acupuncture treats a wide range of conditions. The most common reasons that teenagers come for treatment are:
- Digestive issues
- Headaches and migraines
- Painful periods (and other menstrual problems)
- Sleep problems
This list is not definitive and there are lots of other reasons teenagers seek treatment too. Sometimes, a teenager will come without a specific condition, but because they are finding the massive changes that go on around adolescence challenging or difficult. Acupuncture can be really effective at helping to make this transition smoother.
What actually happens during a treatment?
When I first see you, I will need to ask a few questions about why you have come for treatment in order that I can make an accurate diagnosis. I will also ask to have a look at your tongue, and take your pulse. I will then ask you to lie on my couch and will insert the fine needles. Sometimes the needles stay in for around 15 minutes; sometimes I will insert one and take it straight out. The minimum number of needles I would use in one treatment is 2. The maximum number would be 8.
Before each stage of the treatment, I will explain to you what I would like to do and check that you are happy with it. You have the option to say ‘no’ at any time to something you are not happy with.
Will I need to undress?
Most of the points I will use are on your lower arms and lower legs, so it’s helpful to wear trousers that can be rolled up to the knee. I will sometimes want to use points on your back or front torso. If I need to ask you to take your top off, I have a gown that you can wear. If you would rather not have needles in a particular part of your body, if you tell me this there is nearly always an alternative point I can use that you are happier with.
Will you want me to talk a lot about how I am feeling?
We don’t have to – but we can’! One of the benefits of acupuncture treatment is that I make my diagnosis by various signs I observe (such as your eyes, pulse, tongue etc). So if you don’t feel comfortable talking at length about how you are feeling, that is absolutely fine. If, however, you feel it would be helpful to talk about how you are feeling, then that’s wonderful and I will also be happy to listen.
Is what I tell you confidential?
Yes! I am bound of strict codes of ethics and safe practice. So I will not share anything that you have told me with anybody else, including your parents. The only exception to this is if you tell me something which makes me seriously concerned for your welfare or the welfare of others. If I think it would be useful to liaise with your G.P or another medical health professional, I will ask your consent to do this beforehand.
Will my parent stay in the room all the time?
Your parent or legal guardian needs to stay in the room during the first session, as he or she will know details about your health history that you may not remember! After that, it is up to you what you would prefer. He or she can either stay in the room for none, part or all of your treatment. You can decide what you are most comfortable with and this can change as treatment progresses.
How long does acupuncture take to work?
Acupuncture is not a quick fix, and you will usually need a series of appointments in order to feel better. However, depending on the condition, many people start feeling some kind of change almost immediately. When I first see you, I can give you more of an idea as to how many sessions I think you may need.
Is there any evidence that acupuncture works?
Yes, there is a lot of evidence about the effectiveness of acupuncture, and this is increasing all the time. If you are interested in reading more about this, and also about the mechanisms by which acupuncture might work, I suggest you take at look at the following website:
If you have any other queries or questions that have not been addressed here, feel free to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will do my best to answer it.