Self-help: get the best out of your acupuncturist!

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So! You’re planning to visit an acupuncturist? First, do some Self-Help!

Think about your problem and try to marshal your thoughts about it. A little forethought goes a long way.

The following might help jog your thoughts – but they don’t cover everything …


What is the feeling or discomfort or pain like?

What sort of pain (problem) is it?

People consult acupuncturists for all sorts of problems, and many don’t involve pain – Insomnia, for instance.

But suppose it is a pain, then …

  • If it’s a pain, how can you describe it other than just ‘pain’?
  • Think of all the different kinds of pain there are: boring, bruised, burning, burrowing, bursting, contracting, constricting, cord-like, cramping, crushing, cutting ….etc.!
  • Which matches the pain you experience?
  • Is the pain different in different places, or under different circumstances?
  • Where does it hurt?
  • Where does the pain come from, or go to? In other words, where else do you feel it?
  • What causes the pain?
  • What makes the pain or problem worse and
  • Can you think of circumstance that make it better?
  • For example, is it better (or worse) for warmth, being outside, being massaged gently, rest, air that is fresh, or warm, or cold, inside or outside…etc? What else makes it different? For instance, does the time of day, or the weather make a difference?


Clear answers to these questions…

Clear answers to these questions could make an enormous difference to the diagnosis your acupuncturist reaches. And you may find that the answers even help you “self-help” the pain away.

  • What was going on around the time, or just before, the pain began? For instance – just some examples from patients I’ve seen over the years –  the time of year, a holiday, an argument, a crisis at work, moving house, having children, an illness, a sudden change in weather, getting over-tired, taking up weight-lifting, giving up weight-lifting, menopause …
  • What circumstances correlate with the onset of the pain, (eg the weather, the time of day, what you are doing, who you are with, what you have been thinking or talking about, what you have been feeling, after or before food/drink, menses, Monday morning, Friday evening…. etc) ?
  • When you have the pain, how does that affect what you feel like doing?
  • What else hurts or bothers you when you are in pain?
  • Is there any unpleasant sensation you feel when you don’t have the pain: what alternates with the pain?
  • After having the pain for a while, what happens – to it, and to you?
  • What do you want to do when in pain?
  • How does it affect your appetite, sleep, digestion, bowels, urination, circulation and so on?
  • When did it start?


Originating Circumstances

What were the circumstances surrounding the original onset? For example, what was going on in your life in the months preceding the onset of your problem or at about the same time as it started?

Is there any other kind of discomfort that you have?

  • What other illnesses or problems have you had, recently and in the past?  
  • Also, which medication do you take? And what supplements?
  • Is there anything you have learned to do, (eg special exercises or diet habits), but for which the pain, or another pain, would occur, or be worse?
  • What other treatments or interventions have you had that have been effective, ineffective, or partially effective, or after which things changed for the worse or the better?
  • Who else that you know, or are related to, who has had something similar?
  • What about the health of your brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents? If any of these have died, what was their health like during their lives, and what caused death?


Self-help can pinpoint answers that only you know, and to your acupuncturist they can make an enormous difference!

Reading List 
Helping Ourselves – A Guide to Chinese Food Energetics by Daverick Leggett 
The Web That Has No Weaver – Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted Kaptchuk 
Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies: Psychology, Energy and Chinese Medicine by Leo Hammer 
The 5 Laws for Healthy Living by Angela Hicks 
Acupuncture in Practice: Case History Insights From the West edited by Hugh MacPherson and Ted Kaptchuk


Further Study and Educational courses 


Student friends and study are also self-help

If you wish to consider training as an acupuncturist or herbalist, the nearest (to Scotland) good centre is in York: the Northern College of Acupuncture, 61 Micklegate, York YO1 6LJ. 
Tel. 01904-343305. 

Done the Self-Help? Ready now for an Acupuncturist?

Acupuncturist taking the case
Acupuncture consultation

The other question is what kind of acupuncturist to consult. Think in the same way you would if consulting any professional, such as a lawyer, architect or private doctor.

You would probably prefer someone well-qualified, with experience and preferably with a good track record. If you know a bit about it, there are specialists in different forms of Chinese medicine, such as TCM theory or Five Element acupuncture. Both use acupuncture points on acupuncture channels.

Of course, since you’ll be discussing very personal matters, you’ll want someone you can trust. If you know of someone that a friend has visited, with good results, that might be a good place to start.

All members of the British Acupuncture Council have spent many years in training, with good clinical supervision. Members maintain their standards through regular CPD – Continuing Professional Development – and they are all fully insured.

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