Interesting Historical Anecdotes

The earliest acupuncture devices were made of stone. These were not used to pierce the skin, but rather to press on acupuncture points. Historians presume that before metal needles were discovered, thorns, bamboo slivers and sharpened bone were used to stimulate acupuncture points. The oldest acupuncture needles found date to A.D. 600. These needles were made of bronze, copper, tin, gold, and silver. In the fourth century A.D., China began using steel, which became the most favored material as it is both very strong and can be used to make very thin needles.

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Acupuncture has been practised in the Far East for over 2000 years. It aims to encourage the body’s natural ability to heal itself by identifying and treating obstructions to the flow of vital energy. It also emphasises your relationship to the environment and your acupuncturist may discuss diet, exercise, stress, occupation and how you as an individual respond to different situations. Your acupuncturist has had an extensive training and is a member of the British Acupuncture Council. At Ripon Natural Health Centre we place great emphasis on the relationship between therapist and patient. Good communication, trust and confidentiality are at the heart of that relationship.

First Appointment

When you first arrive at the clinic, you will be asked for your contact details and the name of your GP and surgery. Your first appointment will take about an hour and your practitioner will ask about your presenting problem and also take a medical history. We need to know about any past or present health problems and whether you are currently receiving treatment. It would be helpful to bring a list of your current medication and dates of illnesses, surgery and accidents. All the information you give is confidential. After the history and physical examination, a treatment plan will be discussed. If you are happy to go ahead and we do not feel you need further investigation, we would aim to begin treatment at your first appointment.


Your practitioner will usually examine the region of the body where you have the problem, take your pulse and look at your tongue. In traditional acupuncture the pulse is felt on both wrists in several positions. The quality of the pulse and characteristics of the tongue provide information which helps the acupuncturist form a diagnosis. Your practitioner may ask to examine other areas of the body such as your back or abdomen. You may need to undress to your underwear or simply roll up your sleeves or trouser legs, depending on where the acupuncture points to be treated are located. Covers and gowns are available in the consulting room. You are welcome to bring a friend or partner as chaperone if you wish.


Acupuncture points are located all over the body but many of the most important ones are to be found on the arms and legs. Points will often be selected away from the problem area. Acupuncture needles are of single use only and sterile. Made from stainless steel, they are extremely fine; most patients experience very little discomfort and find treatment relaxing. Needles remain in place for variable lengths of time from a few seconds to 20 minutes. On average 8 to 12 needles are used. It is ideal to have some quiet time after treatment and you may feel drowsy for a while, so take this into account if you are driving after treatment.

Styles of Acupuncture

There are many styles of acupuncture. At Ripon Natural Health Centre we use both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Five Element styles and also needling based on changes felt within the tissues and modern anatomical knowledge. Other methods are sometimes used to stimulate points such as massage, cupping (glass cups warmed and placed on the skin) and moxa (gentle heat from burning the therapeutic herb Artemesia).

Safety and Consent

Acupuncturists, like all health professionals, are required to provide information on safety and risks associated with particular treatments and obtain informed consent before giving treatment. This is in line with society’s general increase in awareness of health and safety issues. Your practitioner will discuss treatment with you after taking a history and check that you are happy to proceed. If at any time you have questions or concerns please do not hesitate to raise them. Our aim is to work with you to find the most suitable and effective treatment. Acupuncture is an extremely safe therapy and may induce a pleasant state of relaxation but it might also cause slight bruising or soreness at the site of a needle insertion or where you have had cupping. In research done specifically on safety it was estimated that there is less than 1 in 1000 chance of a serious adverse effect ( Needling in the region of the chest and upper back requires particular care because of the risk of pneumothorax (collapse of the lung). Your practitioner is trained to angle and position the needles to ensure this is done safely. If at any time you have concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your practitioner. Further information about acupuncture and research can be obtained from the British Acupuncture Council’s website,, and the clinic has books and articles which can be borrowed. Please contact us for further details.