About Acupuncture

Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a comprehensive healthcare system that is still used in Asia on its own or in conjunction with allopathic medicine. Acupuncture consists of the insertion of tiny needles in specific points in the body to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanisms and there is plenty of research into its efficacy. Millions of people throughout the world seek help from acupuncture for their health and wellbeing.

What Acupuncture can help with

How does Acupuncture work

There are two ways in which this question can be answered. The first is to use the traditional theory of acupuncture to explain how acupuncture works.

It is this theory which a traditional acupuncturist will use to understand your condition and to select the appropriate points. This theory uses the concept of qi. For example, when somebody is in pain, this is considered to be a blockage in flow of qi. A traditional acupuncturist will select points along the meridian that is affected in order to encourage the qi to flow more freely. We are all familiar with a cartoon character that is angry: the head swells and the face goes red. Similarly, if someone is persistently angry, the qi is thought to rise up. An acupuncturist may choose points in the feet to bring the qi down.

The overall aim is to direct the flow of qi to trigger your body’s healing response and to restore physical, emotional and mental equilibrium. Treatment is designed to affect your whole being as well as your symptoms so, as the condition being treated improves, you may notice other health problems resolve and an increased feeling of wellbeing.

The second way to answer the question is to explain how  acupuncture works in terms of modern science. One of the first potential mechanisms and probably the most famous is the release of endorphins. However, it is unlikely that the effects of acupuncture can be attributed to a single mechanism. There are a number of possibilities which include [1]:

  1.     peripheral effects (release of adenosine and nitric oxide by axonal and dorsal root reflexes)
  2.     spinal effects (modulation of sympathetic tone and motor reflexes)
  3.     modulation of endogenous descending paying inhibitory and facilitatory systems
  4.     changing the functional connectivity of the brain. Activation deactivation of
  5.     limbic structures involved in stress/ illness responses
  6.     the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis
  7.     the prefrontal and frontal cortices
  8.     restoration of the default mode state
  9.     modulation of parasympathetic activity
  10.     activation of the reward and mirror systems
  11.     modulation of activation of the immune system
  12.     expectation, attention, conditioning an extinction of conditioned responses

A landmark study recently published in Nature showed a mechanism that is related to a specific acupuncture but not another. This study demonstrated that vagal-adrenal anti-inflammatory axis in mice was driven by the stimulation of the point ST36 but not ST25 [2]. The importance of this study is that it suggests a specific effect of an
acupuncture point. In other words, the mechanisms of acupuncture are not simply general effects which occur regardless of where the needles are inserted.

  1. Lund I, Lundeberg T. Mechanisms of acupuncture. Acupuncture and Related Therapies 2016;4(4):26-30. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arthe.2016.12.001
  2. Liu S, Wang Z, Su Y, et al. A neuroanatomical basis for electroacupuncture to drive the vagal-adrenal axis. Nature 2021;Oct;598(7882)(1476-4687 (Electronic)):641-45. doi: doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-04001-4

Source: British Acupuncture Council

Who is Acupuncture for?

Acupuncture can help everyone, as it is a very safe and gentle type of therapy. Children between 14 and 18 years of age must be accompanied by a guardian. For children under 14,  I am happy to refer to an acupuncturist with specialist paediatric training.

"I started my treatments with Vanessa relatively early on in my infertility journey, as I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). From the very first session, Vanessa has been attentive to my needs, very clear in explaining the treatment she was going to give me and always focusing the treatment on one or maximum two key topics. Over a few months of treatment, I could see a significant improvement of my uterine lining thickness, which was not an issue anymore. More recently, Vanessa has been very flexible and accommodating in order to provide me with a personalised and very timed treatment plan aligned with my IVF journey. Vanessa is not only focusing on the acupuncture treatment she is providing you with, but is also very personable and always happy to give you some additional tips/advice and answer any questions. I would highly recommend her for anyone going through infertility issues.”
“I went to see Vanessa at Covelo Acupuncture as a last resort because of extremely painful and debilitating arthritis in my feet and ankles. After only one session the pain had lessened and now, after 4, I am walking around pain free and am no longer struggling to sleep because of the pain of inflamed ankles. In addition Vanessa is treating my Dupeytrens Contracture, which had begun to significantly impact on the use of my hands. I have to say I was sceptical about how acupuncture could help with it but again after only four sessions the contracture has significantly improved and there is more flexibility in my fingers. This is a huge relief to me as I work with my hands. I would highly recommend Vanessa!”
“Vanessa is a wonderful acupuncturist, and an extremely professional and capable practitioner and nothing was too much trouble. Vanessa helped my kid enormously going through difficult times with chronic pain. We Recommend her extremely highly.”
“Fatigue, stress and sleep deprivation has been part of my life for over 10 years. I started seeing Vanessa for acupuncture treatments on a regular basis and began to notice gradual improvements in my wellbeing. Vanessa is very thorough in her investigation of the symptoms, and I was impressed with how quick my body reacted to the treatments. I feel she is instrumental in helping me through my issues. I cannot thank Vanessa enough for her attentive and compassionate care over these years.”
“Vanessa is amazing. I started seeing her after a recommendation from a friend for treatment for my c-section scar. After just one session the scar was already moving better with less swelling and numbness! Who knew acupuncture could have these effects?! Vanessa is very, very intuitive and I’m continuously learning from her. Each session is very relaxing; we start with a chat on how I’m feeling, Vanessa examines my pulse and scar and asks a few follow up questions, and then it’s time for the needles to go in. I’ve had acupuncture at a few places and the experience with Vanessa is by far the best. Her office is very clean and calming, the temperature is comfortable, and after placing the needles she turns on relaxing music and stays with you in the room for the duration of the treatment. I found this very reassuring! After 4 treatments my scar is in a much better place, but I will definitely make a point to continue to see Vanessa.”

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

Acupuncture is one of the key healing techniques in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncturists place incredibly fine needles delicately into specific points in the body. With a 3000 year history of practice, it connects 20 pathways that harness your natural vitality through 2000 acupuncture points. This stimulates your body’s natural healing response, aiding recovery. It acts as a holistic healing approach for the body rather than a narrow focus, which is why it is so helpful for so many conditions.

How can acupuncture help you?

There is a huge body of scientific research attesting to the benefits of acupuncture; the NHS has a specific page detailing the evidence that supports the effectiveness of regular treatments, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence cite it as a recommended treatment for migraines and stress-related headaches. Also, the British Acupuncture Council has a collection of research fact sheets that you might be interested in. 

What will a session be like?

During our first session we will discuss what brings you to my clinic. I will also take a very detailed health history so that I can understand how your current complaint came to be.

With all this data, I will make a diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) terms. TCM has a specific vocabulary (e.g. Liver Qi Stagnation), but I will translate into Western medical terms when possible.

Once you are on the treatment table, I will insert very fine needles on your body, most commonly in arms and legs but sometimes on your back or stomach. You will not have to undress fully, I can work around loose fitting clothes but I also have single use towels to protect your modesty.

Does it hurt?

The needles used in acupuncture are incredibly delicate so that, other than a small prick, you will barely feel a thing! You may well feel a slight tingling sensation, but that is a sign the treatment is working. I have treated many people with a fear of needles who have had no issues coming back for further treatments – see my testimonial page to hear from just a few of my previous patients.

Is acupuncture safe?

Absolutely! As a registered practitioner I am fully licensed and qualified to practice. All needles are sterilised pre-treatment, and are discarded after use to ensure it is completely sanitary. The World Health Organisation conducted an in-depth study in 2010 concluding acupuncture is “inherently safe”. Please also see my page on the precautions I take for safe practice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How many sessions do I need?

The number of sessions varies depending on what brought you to my treatment room. For recurring ailments, regular treatments are the most effective, but some issues can be helped hugely with just a couple of sessions.


Scientific evidence review

The Acupuncture Evidence Project is a review of the effectiveness of acupuncture for 122 treatments over 14 areas. It also contains medical guideline recommendations for acupuncture and compares the effectiveness of acupuncture against other established treatments.    

The main regulatory body for acupuncture in the UK

With over 3k members, The British Acupuncture Council is the biggest and main regulatory body for acupuncture in the UK, with close ties to the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board which oversees acupuncture schools to make sure they reach an excellent standard of training and safety.  

The only London BAAB accredited acupuncture school

Text: Vanessa trained in and now lectures at the City College of Acupuncture, which offers a three year Licentiate (degree level) in Acupuncture that guarantees admission into the British Acupuncture Council.

Would you like to know how acupuncture can help you?

I am always happy to discuss your specific condition or circumstances, and what acupuncture can do for these.

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