Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question to be taken to the answer:

Does acupuncture hurt?


Do I need to believe in acupuncture in order for it works?


How will I feel after acupuncture?

Usually relaxed and calm. Occasionally you may feel tired or drowsy for a few hours if the treatment has been particularly strong or there may be a short term flaring up of your symptoms as your Qi clears and resettles itself.

What is the difference between the ATCM and other acupuncturists?

We understand that there are differences in style and practice of acupuncture outside China, such as Five Element acupuncture, trigger points acupuncture or dry-needles. The ATCM registers practitioner members who have an extensive training in Chinese medical theories and Chinese style of acupuncture (irrespective of any prior western medical training) of at least 3 years full-time (or the part-time equivalent) and which includes the requisite western medical sciences.

What about the needles used?

Members use single use pre-sterilised disposable needles, which are disposed of after each treatment. The Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture UK members observe the Code of Practice which lays down stringent standards of hygiene and sterilisation of equipment.

Is it safe?

All members of ATCM must observe the Code of Practice which defines the hygiene and safety standards relating to the practice of acupuncture. The Code of Practice is available for download from the Code of Practice page under the About Us section of this site. These procedures have been approved by the Department of Health, and provide protection against the transmission of infectious diseases.

Can I get cross infection from acupuncture?

The acupuncture needles are always sterilised before use. To eliminate any possibility of getting AIDS, or other infectious diseases, disposable needles are preferable. Such needles are used once only and then disposed of safely.

Can I donate blood after have acupuncture treatment?

ATCM’s Code of Practice Item 6 stated:

6. The following equipment, all of which must be CE-marked and conform with current Medical Devices Agency legislation and EEC Directive 93/42/EC, must be used for safe and hygienic practice:

a) single-use pre-sterilised disposable solid needles (reusable needles are not acceptable)
b) guide-tubes which, if used, must be pre-sterilised, come packaged with each individual needle or set of needles, and must not be used or stored for use beyond the treatment session in which the seal on the package has been broken
c) plum blossom needles (‘Seven Star Hammers’) which, whether plastic or stainless steel, must be pre-sterilised and single-use only
d) glass cups which have been properly washed and stored
e) single-use paper tissues, paper towels, and couch roll
f) disinfectants, including pre-packed 70% isopropyl alcohol swabs
g) sterile cotton wool and non-sterile cotton wool/buds
h) sharps box conforming to BS 7320:1990 and clearly marked ‘Danger – Contaminated Needles – To Be Incinerated’ adjacent to the treatment surface and placed at a convenient height on a stable surface
i) a First Aid kit complying with current Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations containing a sufficient supply of suitable bandages, dressings, antiseptic creams and plasters
j) disposable surgical gloves.

It is our basic requirement that all members while practising acupuncture treatment must comply with these rules so as to avoid any possibility of cross infection.

Please be advised that according to Blood donation authority patients who have had acupuncture by ATCM registered practitioners need to defer 4 months before giving blood.

How is a Chinese herbal medicine prescription constructed by a practitioner?

Based on the overall symptoms a patient has, which includes the state of illness, the patient’s sex, age, and constitution, occurring season of the disease and circumstances, the physician begins with the guidelines as delineated in classical texts to form a basic prescription and then adjusts the mixture to the patients needs by adding or deleting various herbs, or manipulating the dosages of the compounds to fit the precise disharmony. Such a prescription usually contains 5-15 substances and the dosages average 3-15 grams per herb.

Is there any type of prepared Chinese medicine available?

Yes, there are many types of prepared Chinese herbal medicine available in the form of decoction, tablet, ointment, powders, etc… An alternative to raw herbs, in which you need to make tea-like drinks to take, is concentrated herb powders which you can also take without making up a drink.

What is it used to treat?

Most conditions apart from those requiring immediate western medicine intervention and serious degenerative disease although it can be used to subsidise and complement Western treatment, enhancing the patient’s quality of life. Acupuncture clinics tend to treat chronic ailments for which there is no conventional cure, such as migraine, chronic muscle and joint pain, asthma & allergies, IBS and other digestive system problems, PMS and menopausal issues and other gynecological problems, but the therapy can also be used to treat acute conditions such as flu and colds and other viral or bacterial infections.

How much treatment do I need?

This depends on how long you’ve had the problem, how ‘deep’ or serious the problem is, and on age and constitution. A muscle problem such as tennis elbow may only need one or two sessions but if it’s been with you for months it will be harder to tackle because more muscles will probably become involved. An illness such as ME or Rheumatoid Arthritis will require long term treatment because many different aspects of the functioning of the body have become involved – the illness is much more complex.

Who can take Chinese medicine?

Chinese Herbs can be taken by all age groups from young babies to the elderly, though you must notify your practitioner if you are also taking other medicines, suffer from allergies, other conditions or are pregnant as this may effect your treatment and prescription.

How long and in what form will I take the herbal medicine?

Traditionally, Chinese Herbs are made up into teas or decoctions. This involves boiling the herbs in water for half an hour or more. The patient will receive detailed instructions on the method of preparation. Capsules of raw herbal powder, concentrated extracts and pills are also prescribed. A typical course of treatment would involve taking a herbal formula daily for several months, depending on the nature of the case and the strength of the patient. The patient will be monitored regularly to ensure that the formula is effective and modified as improvements occur.

Should I continue with my prescribed medication while undergoing a course of Chinese medicine or acupuncture treatment?

Yes. Many people seek the help of Chinese medicine or acupuncturist because of dissatisfaction with drug treatment, mainly because it does not seem to be working or the side effects are too severe. DO NOT stop taking any medication without professional guidance.

What happens if I'm unhappy with the standard of treatment I've received from my CHM practitioner and want to make a complaint?

If that is the case, we will do our best to help you but first we need to find out if the practitioner you are seeing is registered with the ATCM. (Bear in mind, there are practitioners who practise Chinese medicine and acupuncture, and they do not register with any profession organizations). If the practitioner you are going to complain about is registered with ATCM, please let us have the practitioners’ details such as full name and clinic address. We take any such complaints very seriously and we can assure you that the matter will be dealt with fairly and efficiently by our Ethics and Conduct Committee.

I am concerned about the use of endangered species in Chinese herbal medicines.

The ATCM has always condemned the illegal trade in endangered plant and animal species, and our members are subject to strict rules which prohibit the use of any such material.

Is Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) Experimental?

Some people think all Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) are experimental. Therefore, they deem Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) to be experimental too. This, however, is a misunderstanding about CHM and has been proved to be very wrong. Let’s look at the following facts.

(1) Time
Clinically, CHM has been practiced directly on the human body for thousands of years, which is much longer than Western Medicine. Compared to CHM, it is the Western Medicine that is primitive and experimental on many diseases.

(2) Scale
Through thousands of years of clinically practice, CHM has successfully treated millions of patients. This number is much larger than any experimental clinical trials required.

(3) Efficacy
CHM efficacy has been proved through thousands of years of spreading of CHM practices from China to Asia, from Asia to Europe, Australia, America, Africa, etc. This growing popularity among patients around the world is the best testimonials for its efficacy.

(4) Safety
Because CHM is a natural medicine, it is much safer than Western Medicine. This has been proved from the thousands years of practices too.

(5) Recognition
Chinese Medicine medical schools issuing the CMD degree are the first and probably the only medical schools in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) that are listed in the World Health Organization (WHO) World Directory of Medical Schools together with the Harvard Medical School, Yale Medical School, etc.