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Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine
3rd Floor
60 Great Ormond Street 
London, WC1N 3HR

Acupuncture is the insertion of solid needles into the body to improve health. The needles are very fine, much thinner than needles used to give injections or take blood samples. We use sterile needles. They are disposable and never reused.

It may take several acupuncture treatments before you notice any significant improvement. We recommend you continue to attend for appointments even if you do not see any effect at first.

The British Medical Acupuncture Society supports health professionals who practice Western medical acupuncture.

The website provides information for patients and health professionals:

The British Acupuncture Council promotes traditional Chinese acupuncture and provides information for patients and practitioners: 

If suitable for treatment, you will be offered up to 10 sessions of acupuncture, with a final appointment a month after completion of treatment to assess your response.

The treatment itself involves fine needles being inserted through the skin and left in position, sometimes briefly, sometimes for up to 30 minutes. The practitioner may twirl or move the needle to increase the effect. The number of needles varies but may be only two or three.

You must tell your acupuncture practitioner if you:

  • are pregnant
  • have ever experienced a fit, faint or funny turn
  • have a pacemaker or any other electrical implant
  • have damaged heart valves
  • have a bleeding disorder
  • if you have any joint replacements or implants
  • are taking anti-coagulant medication such as Warfarin to thin your blood
  • have any other particular risk of infection

This may affect the treatment you receive but will not necessarily mean that you cannot be treated with acupuncture.

Group acupuncture treatment

To offer treatment to as many patients as possible sometimes we treat patients in a group setting. This means that you will be treated in a room with up to five other patients of either sex. You will be told if you are to receive group treatment.

Curtains are available around each cubicle so you can receive your treatment in private. You will be treated seated or lying on a couch.

All treatments and procedures have risks and we will discuss the risks of acupuncture treatment with you before the treatment starts.
During the treatment:

  • Some people may feel a little faint. In very rare cases they may actually faint, especially the first time they receive acupuncture.
  • About one in a hundred people may feel pain during the treatment. Most people simply feel a little discomfort as the needle is inserted; some people feel nothing at all.

After the treatment:

  • About three in a hundred people experience some minor bruising or bleeding after the treatment.
  • Fewer than three people in a hundred will find their symptoms get worse after their first treatment. This is often a good sign, but you should always tell your acupuncturist about this if it happens to you.
  • Some patients can feel sleepy or light-headed after treatment. You should not drive or operate machinery after your appointment if you are affected.

Rare but serious:

Acupuncture is very low risk if practiced safely. But there is a risk that about one in 200,000 treatments could lead to a serious adverse event, such as a punctured lung.

This risk only occurs when needling over the ribcage. You should seek medical help if you suffer breathlessness or chest pain within 48 hours of your acupuncture treatment session.

We want to involve you in all the decisions about your care and treatment and your clinician will explain all the risks, benefits and alternatives. If you are unsure about any aspect of your proposed treatment, please ask. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have. If you decide to go ahead with treatment your practitioner may ask you to sign a consent form or may obtain your permission verbally.

Acupuncture is a drug-free treatment, which may ease pain or improve symptoms of your condition so much that you can reduce reliance on painkillers or other medication.

Compared to many treatments such as strong drugs or surgery, acupuncture is very safe. It can work alongside your existing treatment or on its own. If your doctor refers you for acupuncture treatment we advise you to complete the course to obtain the maximum benefit. However, if you choose not to have acupuncture treatment, or find it does not suit you, you may continue with your existing treatment.

Acupuncture stimulates the nerves in skin and muscle and can produce different effects. We know that it can help your body release natural painkillers in parts of your spinal cord and brain. This modifies the way your brain receives information about pain.

Acupuncture (up to 10 sessions) is recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of certain types of headache in those aged 18 or over:

  • Migraine (in those whom the recommended preventative medications (propranolol and topiramate) do not work or cause unacceptable side-effects)
  • Chronic tension-type headache

You will receive an initial assessment lasting up to an hour to take your medical history and confirm your suitability for acupuncture treatment.

You will be given a headache diary and a set of questionnaires to complete. Please bring a list of your current and previous medications.

Please arrive on time for your appointments as your treatment may require needles to be left in place for up to 30 minutes; late arrival may affect the length of your treatment.

  • Allow one hour for your first session. Sessions after that will be shorter.
  • It is wise to arrange for an escort to accompany you home after your first appointment in case the treatment makes you feel sleepy or light-headed.
  • Please wear clothing that allows access to your neck, shoulders, ankles and feet.
  • You should take meals and medicine as normal before your acupuncture treatment.

To offer treatment to as many patients as possible sometimes we treat patients in a group setting. This means that you will be treated in a room with up to four other patients of either sex You will be told if you are to receive group treatment. Curtains are available around each cubicle so you can receive your treatment in private. You will be treated seated or lying on a couch.

We provide gowns to change into if necessary. For neck and shoulder treatment, it is usually necessary to undress to the waist and ladies will not usually need to remove their bra. For treatment of the lower back, trousers or skirt may need to be removed. Please do not wear tights, stockings, or clothing that cannot be easily removed.

Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This is a system of healing which has been practised in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years.

Although often used as a means of pain relief, it can treat people with other illnesses. The focus is on improving the overall well-being of the patient, rather than the isolated treatment of specific symptoms.

You will be seen individually and assessed by an acupuncturist trained in TCM. They will use traditional Chinese techniques including pulse, tongue and abdominal diagnosis. They will also ask you about your medical history and lifestyle.  

The TCM trained acupuncturist can stimulate the body’s own healing response and help to restore its natural balance.

The principal aim of acupuncture in treating the whole person is to create balance between your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It can help to relax, improve mood and sleep, relieve tension and improve your sense of well-being, as well as improving symptoms.

We will assess your individual needs and discuss a treatment plan with you during your initial consultation.

The treatment may include the use of the following:

  • The use of fine acupuncture needles
  • Moxibustion (burning of the herb mugwort close to the surface of the skin)
  • Cupping therapy (to create local suction on the skin)
  • Acupressure (pressure applied to acu-points to stimulate energy flow)
  • Electro-acupuncture (a low voltage current is passed between 2 needles)

It is important for your treatment that you attend your scheduled appointment at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine.

If your appointment is more than 24 hours away, please change or cancel it by using the online form below or calling us on 0203 456 7890.

If your appointment is within the next 24 hrs please call us on 0203 456 7890.

If you have any non-urgent queries regarding your appointment or our services please email us at and we will respond to you within 72 hours.

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