The FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Before booking an appointment, you may have one or two questions to ask. Please feel free to give us a call on 020 8523 2669 or alternatively, browse through the items below (click on the question). As indicated, all answers have been provided by reputable governing bodies.

The information below is purely for general guidance and must not be taken as medical advice or diagnosis for personal conditions.



Why have traditional acupuncture?

Many people use acupuncture for help with specific symptoms or conditions. Others choose acupuncture as a preventive measure to strengthen their constitution or because they just feel generally unwell. Acupuncture is considered suitable for all ages including babies, children and the elderly. It can be very effective when integrated with conventional medicine.

British Acupuncture Council

Is acupuncture safe for babies, children and teenagers?

Yes. Children and adolescents usually respond very well to acupuncture. Many acupuncturists specialise in paediatric care.

British Acupuncture Council

Should I tell my Doctor I am having acupuncture?

If you are currently receiving treatment from your doctor it is sensible to mention that you plan to have acupuncture. Your acupuncturist will need to know about any medication you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment.

British Acupuncture Council

I am scared of needles – Can I still have acupuncture?

Yes. Certain styles like Japanese acupuncture use needles that do not break the skin or are inserted extremely lightly. Acupuncture needles are very much finer than the needles used for injections and blood tests. You may not even feel them penetrate the skin and once in place they are hardly noticeable.

British Acupuncture Council

Should I still take my prescribed medication?

Yes. The acupuncture treatment may enable you to reduce or even stop taking some forms of medication but you should always consult your doctor regarding any change of prescription. DO NOT stop taking medication without professional guidance.

British Acupuncture Council

What does acupuncture feel like?

Most people find acupuncture to be very relaxing. Patients often describe the needle sensation as a tingling or dull ache. This is one of the signs the body’s qi, or vital energy, has been stimulated.

British Acupuncture Council

Are there any unpleasant side effects?

Acupuncture has virtually no unpleasant side effects. Any that do occur are mild and self-correcting. Occasionally there may be minor bruising at the needle point or a short-term flare-up of your symptoms as your qi clears and resettles. 

– British Acupuncture Council


Will my private medical insurance cover Osteopathy?

Many private health insurance policies provide cover for osteopathic treatment.  It may be possible to claim for a course of treatment but you should check in advance with your insurance company before seeking osteopathic treatment, in order to confirm the available level of cover and whether you will need to have a referral from your GP or a specialist.

General Osteopathic Council

What can I expect on my first visit to an Osteopath?

t the first consultation, the osteopath will compile a full case history of your symptoms, as well as asking for information about your lifestyle and diet.  The osteopath may also observe you making some simple movements to help them make a diagnosis.  You will usually be asked to remove some clothing near the area of the body to be examined.

Osteopaths are trained to examine areas of the body using a highly-developed sense of touch, known as palpation, to determine conditions and identify the body’s points of weakness or excessive strain.  Osteopathy is a ‘package’ of care that includes skilled mobilising and manipulative techniques, reinforced by guidance on diet and exercise.

The osteopath will discuss with you the most appropriate treatment plan, estimating the likely number of sessions needed to treat your condition effectively.  If the osteopath thinks that your condition is unlikely to respond to osteopathic treatment, you will be advised about how to seek further care.  Osteopaths are skilled in diagnostic techniques and trained to identify when a patient needs to be referred to a GP.

General Osteopathic Council

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a primary care profession, focusing on the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal disorders, and the effects of these conditions on patients’ general health.

Using many of the diagnostic procedures applied in conventional medical assessment, osteopaths seek to restore the optimal functioning of the body, where possible without the use of drugs or surgery.  Osteopathy is based on the principle that the body has the ability to heal, and osteopathic care focuses on strengthening the musculoskeletal systems to treat existing conditions and to prevent illness.

Osteopaths’ patient-centred approach to health and well-being means they consider symptoms in the context of the patient’s full medical history, as well as their lifestyle and personal circumstances.  This holistic approach ensures that all treatment is tailored to the individual patient.

General Osteopathic Council

What do Osteopaths treat?

Osteopathy focuses on the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal and other related disorders without the use of drugs or surgery.  Commonly treated conditions include back and neck pain, postural problems, sporting injuries, muscle and joint deterioration, restricted mobility and occupational ill-health.

General Osteopathic Council

What training do Osteopaths have?

Undergraduate students follow a four or five-year degree course combining academic and clinical work. Qualification generally takes the form of a bachelor’s degree in osteopathy – a BSc(Hons), BOst or BOstMed – or a masters degree in osteopathy (MOst). Many osteopaths continue their studies after graduating.

Osteopaths are required to update their training throughout their working lives. They must complete at least 30 hours of Continuous Professional Development per year.

General Osteopathic Council


Is homeopathy safe?

Homeopathy is perfectly safe. This is because homeopathic medicines are made from a very small amount of the active ingredient. Two hundred years of practice, research and trials have proved the safety of this gentle system of medicine for both people and animals.

Unlike some conventional drugs, homeopathic medicines are non-addictive and have no dangerous side-effects. Homeopathy is safe to use for babies, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, who are under the supervision of a homeopathic doctor.

Members of the Faculty of Homeopathy are doctors and other statutorily registered healthcare professionals bound to act within the competence of their profession and their level of training and qualification in homeopathy. This means that a homeopathic medicine would not be prescribed when, for example, a conventional treatment is actually the better option for a patient.

British Homeopathic Association

Should I stop my other medication whilst taking homeopathy?

No. Homeopathic medicines can be safely taken along with other medicines. It can be very dangerous to stop a medicine which you have been using for some time. Homeopathy will not interfere with your other drugs. You will be able to reduce your other drugs under the supervision of a homeopathic doctor, if you begin to improve with homeopathic treatment.

British Homeopathic Association

Is homeopathy officially regulated?

Although homeopathy itself is not currently subject to statutory regulation, doctors and other healthcare professionals who practise homeopathy are regulated by their relevant professional body.

British Homeopathic Association

What is homeopathic medicine made of?

Homeopathic medicines are made mainly from plants and minerals which are highly diluted and then added to lactose tablets or pills.

British Homeopathic Association

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a form of holistic medicine used by over 200 million people worldwide to treat both acute and chronic conditions. It is based on the principle of ‘like cures like’ – in other words, a substance taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms it causes if it was taken in large amounts.

Homeopathic medicines are manufactured using a process combining serial dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking). After dilution the medicine is added to lactose tablets or pillules. Homeopathic medicines are perfectly safe to use for babies, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, who are under the supervision of a medically-qualified practitioner.

The Faculty of Homeopathy

Where is the evidence that homeopathy works?

There is a growing body of clinical evidence to show that homeopathy has a positive effect on health. There are a total of 163 peer-reviewed randomised controlled trials (RCT) in homeopathy: 67 had positive findings; 85 were non-conclusive; only 11 were negative. These trials represent research in 69 separate medical complaints.

Download a two page evidence summary or for a more in-depth look at the evidence base, visit the research section.

To see a full list of those conditions where there is published positive evidence for homeopathy visit the website of the British Homeopathic Association, a charity that promotes patient access to homeopathy.

The Faculty of Homeopathy

Sports Injuries


Is Shiatsu just massage?

Shiatsu has some features in common with European-style massage and other forms of bodywork in that the use of physical pressure and stretches serves to reduce muscular tension and loosen stiff joints. However, unlike massage, the receiver remains clothed during the treatment and the principal aim of Shiatsu is not to work on localised muscles and joints, but on the overall energy system of the client. This is the big difference between Shiatsu and other physical therapies. A Shiatsu practitioner working on a shoulder joint, for example, will not just be focusing on the joint but on the pattern of energy throughout the client’s body.

The Shiatsu Society

What is ‘qi’ ( also known as ‘chi’ or ‘ki’) and meridians?

In the oriental tradition the world is described in terms of energy. All things are considered to be manifestations of a vital universal force, called ‘Ki’ in Japanese or ‘Qi’ in Chinese. Ki flows throughout the body like a system of rivers and canals. Ki moves throughout the whole body but in certain defined pathways it flows in a more concentrated manner. These pathways are known as meridians. The meridians form a continuous circuit of channels that allow the flow of different aspects of Ki all over the body. Things may happen to upset the smooth flow of Ki, causing blockages or dams in some areas, and weaknesses or stagnant pools in others. These blockages or weaknesses in turn may lead to physical symptoms, to psychological or emotional disturbances, or simply to a feeling that things are just not quite right.

The Shiatsu Society

Do I have to be ill to receive Shiatsu?

No. People can receive Shiatsu purely for relaxation and enjoyment. Regular treatments may help to keep the body in harmony and ward off ill-health.

The Shiatsu Society

What is Shiatsu – How does it work?

Based on the initial diagnosis and on physical and visual feedback gained during the session, the practitioner will seek to even out perceived energy imbalances through pressure on the meridians, probably in conjunction with other techniques such as rocking, stretches and joint rotations. As with diagnosis, Shiatsu treatment is holistic, with the practitioner working on the whole body rather than focusing on the area where symptoms are most obvious. Shiatsu works best if the client is as relaxed and comfortable as possible, so you should close your eyes, relax your muscles (the practitioner will do all the work if movement is required) and refrain from speaking unless it’s really necessary. But let the practitioner know the moment you feel any discomfort or your body will start to tense up and the benefit of the session will be lost.

The Shiatsu Society

Can Shiatsu do any harm?

By the nature of Shiatsu, it is almost impossible for it to have harmful effects. The aim is to shift energy around the body in such a way as to relieve areas of tension and enliven weak areas. This is effectively a collaboration between the practitioner and the client’s body, which will instinctively want to do the same thing, but may need a little help to get started. Occasionally a new patient may have healing reactions after the first few sessions. These occur when toxins have been released during the treatment, and as these work out through the body there may be symptoms such as headache, stiffness, stomach upsets or diarrhoea, desire to urinate frequently, or lethargy. Such symptoms are transitory and soon pass, usually in 12 hours at most. Drinking plenty of spring water and resting will help, as well as asking the practitioner for advice and reassurance.

Emotional releases may take longer to work through, and indeed, over the course of a number of treatments, deep-seated emotional patterns or memories involving past emotions may be uncovered. These can have profound effects on the patient’s life. In such cases, extra contact between sessions may be necessary to talk through the reactions to treatment.

The Shiatsu Society


Does Willows arrange home visits?

Currently all appointments are held at the Willows Centre.

What are your opening times?

See our Contacts page for more information

What is meant by ‘Complementary Medicine’?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What’s the Difference?

It is important to understand the difference between complementary medicine and alternative medicine — the two approaches are often lumped together but are, in fact, distinct.

Complementary medicine refers to healing practices and products that work in conjunction with traditional medicine. For example, a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy may also undergo acupuncture to help manage chemo side effects like nausea and vomiting. Alternative medicine differs in that it is not used as a complement to, but rather as a substitute for traditional therapy. An example would be a cancer patient who forgoes recommended chemotherapy and instead chooses to treat the disease with specific dietary changes.

If you are considering using complementary or alternative therapy, make sure you consult with your regular doctor and do some research before your first session.

Donald Abrams, MD, director of clinical programs for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Everyday Health