What is medical acupuncture?

Medical acupuncture is a relatively new form of acupuncture which has been developed using Western discoveries about the brain and the nervous system, which have enabled some of the effects of acupuncture to be explained in scientific terms. Modern research methods have been used over the last thirty years to collect evidence on the effectiveness and safety of different acupuncture techniques. 

Medical acupuncture in the UK is practised by fully-qualified medical practitioners, registered with the General Medical Council, who have had additional training in these techniques.  These doctors are therefore able to use their wider medical knowledge to diagnose and safely treat conditions that are suitable for acupuncture. Acupuncture is already available in most NHS hospital pain clinics, and it is provided by an ever-increasing number of GPs and hospital doctors.

Why not look at the testimonials page to see what my patients think?

How does medical acupuncture work?

Acupuncture stimulates the nerves in skin and muscle, and can produce a variety of effects. We know that it increases the body's release of natural painkillers - endorphin and serotonin - in the pain pathways of both the spinal cord and the brain. This modifies the way pain signals are received at several different levels.

But acupuncture does much more than reduce pain; it has a beneficial effect on health. Patients often notice an improved sense of wellbeing after treatment.  Modern research shows that acupuncture can affect most of the body's systems - the nervous system, muscle tone, hormone outputs, circulation, antibody production and allergic responses, as well as the respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems.

What is the evidence that acupuncture works?

There have now been several high-quality research trials which support the use of acupuncture in a range of conditions. Cochrane reviews are regarded by doctors as the gold standard method of analysing the research evidence. A Cochrane review on the use of acupuncture in migraine concluded: "acupuncture is at least as effective as, or possibly more effective than, prophylactic drug treatment, and has fewer adverse effects". Several guidance documents from the NHS National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommend acupuncture. However, unfortunately, it is not often possible to obtain treatment through the NHS.

Migraine:  NHS NICE Guidance | Cochrane Library Article
Headache: NHS NICE Guidance | BBC News | Cochrane Library Article |
Back pain: BBC News | Cochrane Library Article
Arthritis of the knee: NHS NICE Guidance | BBC News | Acupuncture In Medicine

What happens during a treatment?

Fine sterile, disposable needles are inserted through the skin and left in position.  Sometimes they may be turned gently to enhance their effect. The number of needles varies according to the situation, but may be only two or three.

Is there anything which I need to tell the doctor?

You will be asked about any medical conditions which might be relevant to your treatment, in particular:

  • Fits, faints or blackouts
  • Pacemakers
  • Bleeding problems
  • Damaged heart valves
  • Whether you are at risk of infection, for example after chemotherapy
  • Warfarin or other medication

Are there any side effects?

Acupuncture is very safe. Serious side effects are very rare – less than one per 10,000 treatments.

  • Many people find acupuncture deeply relaxing. Drowsiness occurs after    treatment in a small number of patients, and, if affected, you are advised not to drive.
  • Minor bleeding or bruising occurs in about 3% of treatments
  • Pain occurs in about 1% of treatments
  • Existing symptoms may get worse temporarily, after 3% of treatments
  • Fainting may occur, particularly at the first treatment

Does acupuncture work for everyone?

On average, three people out of four who are treated with acupuncture will benefit. It is usually possible to tell whether acupuncture will work for you after two sessions.


Are there any conditions you don't treat?

I don't offer treatment for fertility problems, or for those who want to stop smoking.


Can anyone be treated?

The General Medical Council will not permit NHS GP’s to provide private treatment to NHS patients who are registered with their practice, so unfortunately patients of The Kingfisher Practice cannot be treated privately.


Does acupuncture only work if you believe in it?

No, it is not necessary to have faith in the treatment in order for it to work.

Can I give blood after having acupuncture?

Yes, blood may be donated provided that acupuncture has been performed by a GMC registered doctor.


Please feel free to contact me to see how I can help you.


Dr Gina Johnson
Luton GP

Tel: (01582) 410325
Email: click

A Patient's View

"I have suffered with migraine headaches for over 40 years. They would last for at least 3 days and would occur every 4 to 6 weeks which meant taking lots of painkillers and often spending days in bed..." [Read more]

Mrs Wallis, Luton

What I provide

Safe, effective and professional treatment by a holistic NHS GP.