According to the patients at a community acupuncture clinic in Huddersfield, the ancient healing system can provide relief from all manner of complaints, including difficult-to-treat chronic back pain, and even the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Hilarie Stelfox reports

NO-ONE needs to convince mother-of-two Rebecca Barrett that acupuncture works.

Before seeking a last-resort treatment for severe back pain the 47-year-old from Holmfirth spent eight months on pain-killers and says her life was “completely hideous.”

“The pain-killers were so strong they had horrible side effects and yet only took the edge off the pain,” explained Rebecca. “They made me feel sick and dizzy, my life was just on hold.”

And yet after just two acupuncture treatments in early 2010, with Holme Valley practitioner Stacey Ash, the pain disappeared. “It was quite incredible,” she says.

“I went on to have a course of treatments as a pick-me-up because I’d got so run down while living in pain,” she added.

Rebecca’s initial sciatic back pain was brought on, she believes, by lifting something that was too heavy for her. After being pain free for a year she recently experienced a “few twinges” while preparing to move house. But this time her first port of call was not her GP but to see Stacey at the Kirklees Community Acupuncture Clinic in Thongsbridge.

The clinic was set up a year ago by Stacey and her colleague Louisa Rollinson. It offers cut-price acupuncture treatments and the aim is to reach the sort of patients who otherwise might not be able to afford private healthcare. Hour-long treatment sessions are £12 for pensioners or people on state benefits and £18 for others.

Now based at the Elmwood Health Centre, the clinic is open every Tuesday from 10am until 2pm.

Louisa, who lives in Honley and moved to Huddersfield from London two years ago, says demand for acupuncture is increasing but many people simply can’t afford to pay for private treatments, which usually range from £35 to £45 a session.

“There are clinics like ours springing up all over the country. That’s how they do it in China, treating people in a multi-bed environment,” she added.

She has a degree in acupuncture from the University of Westminster and has been practising for five years. Stacey, who qualified in 1986, is one of the area’s longest-established acupuncturists.

There are less than a dozen practising acupuncturists in the Huddersfield area but it’s a complementary therapy that most people know something about.

It’s widely accepted, with some GPs recommending it to their patients, particularly for chronic pain conditions.

In fact, acupuncture is listed as an effective treatment for lower back pain under the NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines issued by the NHS.

However, Pat Hey from Wooldale chose acupuncture to help her control the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and has found it an effective treatment.

“I was diagnosed last July but the symptoms were there for a long time before that,” said Pat,69. “I have postural problems, tremors and my walking is a bit wobbly, but after acupuncture they seem to be better and I feel wonderfully relaxed.”

“One of the problems with Parkinson’s is that stress and anxiety make the symptoms worse so it’s important to feel relaxed. I can’t stand it if I miss my fortnightly treatments.”

Stacey says that there’s a common misconception that acupuncture treats only pain conditions.

“We can treat a wide range of systemic disorders from digestive problems to migraines and panic attacks,” she explained.

“It is very good for pain, stress and women’s disorders, particularly fertility issues. I would never say that it can treat things like high blood pressure and diabetes but it helps people to be relaxed and calm, it’s great for general wellbeing.”

Although acupuncturists would also say that they can’t treat or cure cancer, they do recommend the therapy to help overcome the nausea and other side effects of chemotherapy and claim that acupuncture can boost the immune system and aid healing.

Typically, patients seeking treatment will spend an hour on a couch and will have between 10 and 20 needles inserted into specific points on their body.

“Most of our clinic patients have never had acupuncture before and some are quite nervous about the needles,” said Stacey. “But most say the needles don’t hurt and quite enjoy the open environment in the clinic, being treated alongside other people.”

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