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Acupuncture - now I get the point of it!
AS I survey the numerous needles protruding out of various parts of my legs, arms and feet, not forgetting the one sprouting from the top of my forehead, I wonder what to expect next.
The needles are smaller than I expect. They’re as fine as a piece of hair. I didn’t feel them being inserted into my skin at all.
I have always been interested in alternative therapies and treatments, but so far this has only taken me as far as a few different kinds of massage.
Today, however, I find myself having dived head first (with a needle lodged there to prove it) into the world of acupuncture.
That this has happened today is due to the soon-to-be-opened, multi-bed acupuncture clinic in Uxbridge.
Uxbridge Community Acupuncture is being run by Celeste Handford and Anna Piechocka, who both currently practice acupuncture privately in Uxbridge and Beaconsfield.
The clinic, at Christchurch, Belmont Road, will open on September 12 and will be open for treatment every Wednesday afternoon from 1pm.
What is special about this clinic is that the multi-bed format can provide a high quality yet very affordable service for the community.
Most UK acupuncturists can charge up to £60 per treatment, but Uxbridge Community Acupuncture will charge a fraction of the price, at £20.
Anna says: “For some people, acupuncture is prohibitively expensive. So, to encourage people to have acupuncture, you have to keep the cost at a level they can afford.
“Also, for acupuncture to be effective, people need to have regular courses of treatment, so we hope the low cost will enable people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford it to return for treatment.”
So why have they chosen Uxbridge as the place to start this multi-bed clinic?
Celeste says: “We thought Uxbridge would be a good place as it has a very mixed community. There are no other multi-bed clinics in the area.”
A multi-bed clinic is one where several people are treated together in one large room. In the Far East, from where acupuncture originates, it is normal to treat many people together and, therefore, many people feel it is a more authentic way to practise.
This type of service is possible because acupuncture needles usually take 20-45 minutes to take effect, so the practitioner is able to place needles in one patient, leave them to relax and then move on to the next patient.
Anna and Celeste are hoping to be able to treat two people each per hour, and there will be four beds in the room.
As costs per patient are reduced, this saving is then passed on.
“If people are feeling tense, stressed or anxious, they can just lie down and completely relax, while we see to the next patient,” says Celeste.
Another benefit is the sense of togetherness and community spirit that emerges when people are treated together.
“People can get as much from the camaraderie in the room as the treatment itself,” says Anna.
“Many people feel relieved as they think ‘I’m not the only person with this problem’ and it takes away the feeling of isolation.”
Members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), including Anna and Celeste, practise acupuncture based on Chinese medicine principles that have been developed, researched and refined for more than 2,000 years.
Acupuncture is now widely used and accepted all over the world. In the UK it is increasingly used in the NHS, as positive research results continue to mount.
Celeste previously worked at the flagship NHS Gateway Acupuncture clinic in Lambeth, which specialises in pain and musculo-skeletal pain. It sees around 300 patients per week, with 15,000 treatments per year.
Celeste says: “It is cost effective for the NHS as it can be used as an alternative to medicine or minor surgery.”
Anna and Celeste undertook their postgraduate training at the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre at Mount Vernon Hospital, Northwood. There, clinical trials have been undertaken to treat cancer patients, to alleviate their symptoms.
Acupuncture works to help maintain your body’s equilibrium, and the insertion of very fine needles into specific points is to regulate the flow of ‘Qi’, the body’s vital energy.
When Qi cannot flow freely through the body, practitioners believe this can cause illness, so acupuncture seeks to restore the flow of Qi, and so restore health.
The needles are thought to stimulate skin and muscle nerves, thereby releasing the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins and enkephalins into the pain pathways of the spinal chord and brain to modify the way pain signals are received.
Anna says: “It’s a subtle form of medicine. It works away at things gently, so it doesn’t have the side effects that conventional medicine has. It nourishes people who are very depleted and triggers the ‘feel good’ factor.”
Celeste adds: “I think, if you embrace it, and you let it do its work, it can be a very positive experience.”
It is used to treat a range of other conditions such as repetitive strain injury (RSI), arthritis, stress, headaches, insomnia, musculo-skeletal pain in the back, shoulders or neck, and is increasingly used to treat infertility alongside IVF treatment.
It is also increasingly used at antenatal clinics, in post-natal care, and is effective in helping to alleviate symptoms during pregnancy and labour.
As well as offering body acupuncture, the new clinic will offer a range of other treatments. Ear acupuncture, for instance, is seen to be effective for addiction problems.
It will offer electro acupuncture and ‘cupping’. Cupping involves heating a glass cup with a flame to burn out the oxygen and is then quickly applied to the skin, creating a vacuum.
It is believed to stimulate the flow of blood, lymph and Qi to the affected area. Its uses include relieving pain in the muscles and clearing congestion in the chest.
Later, I experience the cupping treatment, which is a strange but pleasant feeling, which I hope will help to clear a bad chest infection I have had for a while.
Obviously I am not expecting miracles from just one treatment, as it is from regular courses of treatment that the best results stem.
“I have many patients who just keep coming back for treatments. They know it’s effective for them, and that is fantastic to know” says Anna.
Anna and Celeste hope the low-cost treatment they are offering will result in many more people being able to try it.
After a few minutes, I start to feel a dull ache at the points where the needles are, as they start to do their work.
After about 5-10 minutes I definitely find myself more relaxed. I am left for a further 20 minutes until the needles are then taken out.
The whole experience I found to be most relaxing, and it was perhaps no coincidence that I slept very well that same night.
I would love to keep having a regular course of treatments, to discover what acupuncture can do for me.
I believe, even for people with no discernible aches, pains or illnesses, it can still be beneficial - and certainly for people like me with busy, hectic lifestyles. I can say, after today, there is definitely a point to acupuncture.
For more information on Uxbridge Community Acupuncture or to make an appointment, visit www.uxbridgeacupuncture.com or call 07751 164262/ 07990 836949.