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Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are inserted at certain sites in the body for therapeutic or preventative purposes.

Western medical acupuncture is the use of acupuncture following a medical diagnosis. It involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles of the body. This results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins. It's likely that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects experienced with acupuncture.

A course of acupuncture usually creates longer lasting pain relief than when a single treatment is used.

Traditional acupuncture is based on the belief that an energy, or "life force", flows through the body in channels called meridians. This life force is known as Qi (pronounced "chee"). Practitioners who adhere to traditional beliefs about acupuncture believe that when Qi doesn't flow freely through the body, this can cause illness. They also believe acupuncture can restore the flow of Qi, and so restore health.

According to the British Acupuncture Council, conditions treated include headaches, lower back pain, infertility, depression, osteoarthritis, insomnia, digestive disorders (including IBS) and allergies (including eczema and hay fever). It is used in many NHS general practices, as well as the majority of pain clinics and hospices in the UK. 

An initial acupuncture session usually lasts 60 minutes and involves an assessment of your general health, medical history and a physical examination, followed by insertion of the acupuncture needles. Courses of treatment often involve up to 10 separate sessions, but this can vary. The needles are inserted into specific places on the body, which practitioners call acupuncture points.

During the session, you'll usually be asked to sit or lie down. You may also be asked to remove some clothes so the practitioner can access certain parts of your body. The needles used are fine and are usually a few centimetres long. They should be single-use, pre-sterilised needles that are disposed of immediately after use.

Acupuncture practitioners choose specific points to place the needles based on your condition. Up to 12 points may be used during a typical session, sometimes more depending on the number of symptoms you have. The needles may be inserted just under the skin, or deeper so they reach muscle tissue. Once the needles are in place, they may be left in position for a length of time lasting from a few minutes up to around 30 minutes. You may feel a tingling or a dull ache when the needles are inserted but shouldn't experience any significant pain. If you do, let your practitioner know straight away. In some cases, your practitioner may rotate the needles or stimulate them with a mild electric current (known as electroacupuncture).

When it's carried out by a qualified practitioner, acupuncture is generally very safe. There is a very small risk of mild, short-lived side effects such as pain, bruising/bleeding, nausea and drowsiness.

If you have a bleeding disorder, such as haemophilia, or are taking anticoagulants talk to your GP before you have acupuncture. Acupuncture is also not usually advised if you have a metal allergy or an infection in the area where needles may be inserted. It's generally safe to have acupuncture when you're pregnant. However, let your acupuncture practitioner know if you're pregnant because certain acupuncture points can't be used safely during pregnancy.


Sourced from NHS Choices & British Acupuncture Council




According to the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), chiropractic is "a health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health".

Chiropractors (practitioners of chiropractic) use their hands to treat disorders of the bones, muscles and joints. Treatments that involve using the hands in this way are called "manual therapies".  Chiropractors use a range of techniques, with an emphasis on manipulation of the spine. They may also offer advice on diet, exercise and lifestyle, and rehabilitation programmes that involve exercises to do in your own time. Some chiropractors may also offer other alternative treatments, such as acupuncture. 

Many chiropractors only treat conditions related to the spine, such as lower back or neck pain. Some chiropractors, however, claim to treat a wider range of conditions, including asthma, infant colic, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and many others. The GCC says that the care provided by chiropractors should be "informed by the best available evidence, the preferences of the patient and the expertise of practitioners".

Currently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends manual therapy that might include spinal manipulation (as practised by chiropractors) as a treatment option for persistent lower back pain. There is good evidence that manual therapy which may include spinal manipulation – as practised by chiropractors – can be an effective treatment for persistent lower back pain. The cost of chiropractic varies and depends on the length of a particular chiropractic session. On average, a session will cost around £40-60 (more for an initial assessment), but like other therapies chiropractic may cost more in London and the South East.


Sourced from NHS Choices & Theralist



Massage Therapy

Massage and manual therapy techniques are those where a therapist uses their hands to manipulate, mobilise and massage the body tissues. This can help:

  • relieve pain and stiffness
  • improve blood circulation
  • help fluid drain more efficiently from parts of the body 
  • improve the movement of different parts of the body 
  • promote relaxation

Manual therapy can be used to treat specific problems, such as back pain, but may also be useful for a range of conditions that don't affect the bones, joints or muscles. For example, massage may improve quality of life for some people with serious or long-term conditions by reducing levels of anxiety and improving sleep quality. Some therapists offer treatment for a wider range of health benefits. Manual techniques are also used to help certain lung conditions.

Massage and manual therapies may be performed by a variety of practitioners including massage therapists, sports therapists and physiotherapists and more information is available on each therapist's page. Costs are variable, depending on the type of therapy and any additional qualifications of the practitioner, as well as the length of the treatment but are typically in the range of £50-£70 per hour.


Sourced from NHS Choices & Theralist



Osteopathy is a way of detecting, treating and preventing health problems by moving, stretching and massaging a person's muscles and joints. Osteopathy is based on the principle that the wellbeing of an individual depends on their bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue functioning smoothly together.

Osteopaths will take a medical history, examine and diagnose patients. They will primarily use physical manipulation, stretching and massage, with the aim of:

  • Increasing the mobility of joints
  • Relieving muscle tension
  • Enhancing the blood supply to tissues
  • Helping the body to heal

Most people who see an osteopath do so for help with conditions that affect the muscles, bones and joins, such as:

  • Lower back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Arthritis
  • Problems with the pelvis, hips and legs
  • Sports injuries
  • Problems with posture caused by driving, work or pregnancy

Some osteopaths will see patients with conditions not directly related to muscles, bones and joints, such as headaches, migraines, painful periods, digestive disorders and depression. There's good evidence that osteopathy is effective in treating persistent lower back pain. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends it as a treatment for this condition.

Treatment costs vary and typically range from £45 to £75, but may be higher for an initial assessment. Only people registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) are allowed to practise as or call themselves osteopaths.


Sourced from NHS Choices & Theralist