Unanticipated Insights from the Study of Acupuncture

Clinic Director Hugh MacPherson

Clinic Director Hugh MacPherson and his academic colleagues have recently published a paper about how insights gleaned from acupuncture research have informed biomedical research, practice and policy. (Biomedicine is clinical medicine based on the principles of the natural sciences such as biology and biochemistry.)

They explain: “Within the history of medicine, there are examples of scientific discoveries that emerged from unrelated or marginally related research. Such events often result from cross-fertilization of ideas… New ideas also arise when research efforts to target specific questions reveal unexpected findings.”  For example, acupuncturists have worked with neuroimaging, which has broadened the understanding and treatment of chronic pain. Also, two medical devices now in widespread use were inspired by acupuncture: anti-nausea wrist bands and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units for pain control.

Here is a section of the paper which explains the overall findings. If you’d like to know more, the full article is available online.

“This paper documents how ripple effects of acupuncture research have travelled beyond the field of acupuncture to affect several aspects of biomedicine. Specifically, acupuncture research has (1) expanded scientific and clinical knowledge in the fields of chronic pain, connective tissue, and placebo effects; (2) spawned the design of novel medical devices, which have increased treatment options in the areas of pain control and nausea suppression; and (3) furthered the development of research methods through the design and implementation of pragmatic clinical trials for chronic pain. Few are aware of the origins and pathways of these developments because they are now sufficiently integrated within the knowledge base and practice of biomedicine. The paper concludes by proposing that these exemplars provide evidence that acupuncture research has broadened biomedical understanding with regard to research, practice, and policy, as well as strengthening the case for continued support of basic and clinical research evaluating acupuncture and other under-researched therapies.”


“Unanticipated Insights into Biomedicine from the Study of Acupuncture”. Hugh MacPherson, PhD; Richard Hammerschlag, PhD; Remy R. Coeytaux, MD, PhD; Robert T. Davis, MS; Richard E. Harris, PhD; Jiang-Ti Kong, MD; Helene M. Langevin, MD; Lixing Lao, PhD; Ryan J. Milley, MAcOM; Vitaly Napadow, PhD; Rosa N. Schnyer, DAOM; Elisabet Stener-Victorin, PhD; Claudia M. Witt, MD, MBA; and Peter M. Wayne, PhD. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE Volume 22, Number 2, 2016, pp. 101–107. Full text available online.

Are antidepressant drugs causing more harm than good?

It appears that we are in the midst of drug epidemic.  According to the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry, in 2013 more than 53 million prescriptions were issued for antidepressants in England alone, an increase of 92% since 2003. We are not alone with this trend and the situation is even worse in the US. But why are we facing a similar problem with overuse with newer SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) as we did with benzodiazepines (tranquilisers) in the 1980s? It is unlikely that we have become less mentally stable, or that the increase reflects a genuine need. Peter Gøtzsche PC of the Nordic Cochrane Centre has recently published a paper in Lancet Psychiatry (1) in which he presents some theories behind this growth in the prescription of antidepressants:

  • Many healthy people are inappropriately diagnosed, due to unclear definitions of mental health disorders.
  • Withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants are frequently misinterpreted as a return of the disease, or even the beginning of a new one, resulting in more drugs being prescribed. Hence the incidence of drug-dependence in long-term users is increased.

Antidepressants can bring about the symptoms that they are supposed to alleviate. Unfortunately, in these instances there is a tendency for psychiatrists to increase dosage or prescribe another drug.

As well as problems highlighted above, studies suggest that many antidepressants do not work as people believe. For mild to moderate depression they are no more effective than placebo and only one in ten people with severe depression experience any benefit. (2) It appears that the vicious circle of antidepressant overuse is causing more harm than good and alternatives are required. A recent study carried out at the University of York suggests that acupuncture or counselling could provide an alternative solution for people with ongoing depression. A course of 12 sessions of either acupuncture or counselling are shown to be associated with longer term benefits, with no serious adverse effects. (3)


1. Gøtzsche PC. Why I think antidepressants cause more harm than good. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2014 Jul; 1(2): 104–6.

2. Fournier JC, DeRubeis RJ, Hollon SD, Dimidjian S, Amsterdam JD, Shelton RC, et al. Antidepressant drug effects and depression severity: a patient-level meta-analysis. JAMA. 2010 Jan 6; 303 (1): 47–53.

3. MacPherson H, Richmond S, Bland M, Brealey S, Gabe R, Hopton A, et al. Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised Controlled Trial. PLoS Medicine. 2013 Sep 24; 10 (9): e1001518. [Full text]

To book an appointment with an acupuncturist or counsellor at the York Clinic, phone 01904 709688 between 9am and 6pm or weekdays, or between 9am and 2pm on Saturdays. Alternatively, email us at email@yorkclinic.com, or use our contact form.  We will respond to you as quickly as possible.

Acupuncture can change your life

According Sara Calabro, writing for the Huffington Post, here are 13 specific ways that acupuncture can change your life in 2013.

1. It will open your mind.

2. It can help make you less stressed.

3. It will inspire you to get outside more.

4. It can help give you more energy.

5. It will clear your head.

6. It will allow you to give yourself a break.

7. It can help you sleep.

8. It will get you thinking differently about food.

9. It will help you embrace change.

10. It will give you something to talk about at parties.

11. It will make you more patient.

12. It will make you tough.

13. It will make you believe in yourself.

As Sara Calabro writes, “When it comes to improving our physical and emotional health, most of us are capable of a lot more than we think. By using a therapy like acupuncture, which embraces rather than ignores our innate healing capacity, you’re making a statement that you believe in yourself.”

For more information, see “13 Ways Acupuncture Can Change Your Life in 2013”, at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-calabro/acupuncture-benefits_b_2398193.html

To make an appointment with an acupuncturist, contact the York Clinic on 01904-709688 (between 9 and 5.30) or send an email via our contact page.

Complementary therapies for arthritis and low back pain

The national charity Arthritis Research UK, has published a report on physical therapies for low back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. The  most effective therapies were found to include:

• Acupuncture for osteoarthritis, low back pain and fibromyalgia

• Massage for fibromyalgia and low back pain.

To access the Arthritis Research UK report, click here.

To see the BBC News report, click here.

To seek a practitioner in the York area, see www.yorkclinic.com.

Acupuncture shown to benefit irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

In a recent clinical trial conducted in the York area, acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) was shown to provide an additional benefit over usual care alone.  The magnitude of the effect was sustained over the longer term. Some of the acupuncture provided in the study took place at the York Clinic, and was led by acupuncturist and Clinic Director Hugh MacPherson who has an academic post at the University of York where the research into IBS was managed. The study concludes that acupuncture should be recommended as a treatment option. For the full study, see the open access article at:  http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-230X/12/150/abstract

In the UK around 10%-20% of the population at any point in time have irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.  It is a common gastrointestinal condition with symptoms of diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal cramps. There are IBS treatments that can help, and one of these is acupuncture. If you would like a consultation, make an appointment with one of the acupuncturists at the York Clinic, see www.yorkclinic.com, or call 01904-709688.


Acupuncture found to be effective for fatigue in patients with breast cancer

Acupuncture is effective in treating breast cancer patients for fatigue. This has been shown for the first time in a clinical trial, researchers say.


We aimed to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue (CRF) in patients with breast cancer.

We conducted a pragmatic, randomized controlled trial comparing acupuncture with enhanced usual care. Three hundred two outpatients with breast cancer participated. We randomly assigned 75 patients to usual care and 227 patients to acupuncture plus usual care (random assignment of 1:3 respectively).  Treatment was delivered by acupuncturists once a week for 6 weeks through needling three pairs of acupoints. Primary outcome was general fatigue at 6 weeks, measured with the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI).

Two hundred forty-six of 302 patients randomly assigned provided complete data at 6 weeks. The difference in the mean General Fatigue score, between those who received the intervention and those who did not, was -3.11 (95% CI, -3.97 to -2.25; P < .001).

Acupuncture is an effective intervention for managing the symptom of CRF and improving patients’ quality of life.”


Molassiotis A, Bardy J, Finnegan-John J, Mackereth P, Ryder DW, Filshie J, Ream E, Richardson A. Acupuncture for Cancer-Related Fatigue in Patients With Breast Cancer: A Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial. J Clin Oncol. 2012 Oct 29.


For an acupuncture practitioner in the York area, see York Clinic for Integrated Healthcare.  


Acupuncture relieves menopause symptoms via ABC

acupuncture in yorkWe really like this video – Acupuncture relieves menopause symptoms on ABC .  Women talk about how acupuncture has helped their hot flushes on America’s ABC News.


ABC video about Acupuncture for Menopause

Can acupuncture or counselling help depression?

York Clinic helps to find out….

Acupuncturists and counsellors at York Clinic are seeing patients with depression as part of a large clinical trial run by the University of York. People diagnosed with depression are identified at their GP surgery and offered the chance to join the trial. If suitable, they are randomly allocated to receive either acupuncture, counselling or ‘usual care’. After 12 weeks of treatment, patients fill in a questionnaire about how they are feeling. They are asked to return several further questionnaires, so the trial can find out how long any benefits they have may last.

Harriet Lansdown, the supervisory acupuncturist for the trial says “this is a great opportunity for people who may not have tried acupuncture, to see if it can help. They are also helping us to find out if it is an effective treatment for depression. There are over 750 patients in the trial, enough to calculate whether there is a real effect or not.”

York Clinic has a strong relationship with the University through Hugh MacPherson, the Clinic Director, who is a senior research fellow in the Department of Health Sciences. Hugh is chief investigator of the trial, and led a successful bid for £800,000 of funding from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).

Previous trials have involved back pain, irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis of the knee.

Supporting IVF with Acupuncture in Yorkshire

Acupuncture can significantly improve your chances of pregnancy with IVF and ICSI (BMJ 2008). Here at York Clinic, we recommend two treatments: One post-egg collection and one post- embryo transfer.

Alison, Amanda and Harriet work together to ensure there is always an acupuncturist available at the York Clinic for Integrated Healthcare when you need her.

Practitioner Team

Alison Longridge PhD MScAc MBAcC MAFN

Mobile: 07730 581 051

Amanda Preston BA LicAc DipTuina MBAcC

Mobile: 07766 502 073

Harriet Lansdown MSc DipAc MBAcC FHEA

Mobile: 0784 600 5776

Treatment Fees

Fees are £35 on our usual clinic days. Treatments outside of our normal clinic hours arranged on an

individual basis are £45.


Usual clinic hours – first and last appointments


Wednesday 10am to 7pm

Friday 10am to 7pm


Tuesday 2pm to 7pm

Friday 3pm to 7pm

Saturday 9am to 1pm


Monday 10am to 7pm

Wednesday 10am to 7pm



A bit about Colonic Hydrotherapy

Colonic Hydrotherapy

Most people hold a preconceived idea about colon hydrotherapy or colonic irrigation. Understandably clients are a little apprehensive and anxious prior to a treatment; however it is not unusual for clients to look forward to subsequent treatments because it commonly leaves them feeling clean, revitalised and well. Colonic Hydrotherapy has been practised for thousands of years in ancient Egypt, Greek, Chinese and Indian civilisations. Colon hydrotherapy at the York Clinic is provided by Joanna Priestley.

The Colon

The Colon, also known as the large intestine or large bowel, is the final part of the digestive tract and is located in the abdomen. Its main functions are to eliminate waste and absorb water. It is 5 feet long and 2½ inches in diameter. It is inhabited by billions of ‘friendly’ bacteria which assist in detoxifying waste, synthesising certain vitamins and minerals and helping us guard against infection.

What is Colon Hydrotherapy?

Colon Hydrotherapy is a safe and effective way of cleansing the colon of accumulated waste material, gas, mucous and toxins. Waste material, especially that which has remained in the colon for some time (i.e. impacted faeces, dead cellular tissue, accumulated mucous, parasites, worms. etc), poses several problems. Firstly this material is quite toxic. These toxins can re-enter and circulate in the blood stream making us feel ill, tired or weak. Secondly, impacted material impairs the colons ability to assimilate minerals and the bacterial produced vitamins. Finally, a build-up of material on the colon wall can inhibit muscular action causing sluggish bowel movements and constipation. Cleansing of the colon is achieved by flushing the colon with warm, highly filtered water, which stimulates the bowel to empty itself with waste and water being piped away.

Is It Safe?

A comprehensive consultation prior to treatment ensures colon hydrotherapy is a suitable treatment for you. Only a small amount of water enters the colon at any one time during treatment. It is introduced at a low gravitational pressure, which is actually lower than is normally generated during a bowel movement; hence there is no risk of perforation of the colon. All equipment is sterilised with a modern proven wide spectrum virucidal disinfectant. Clean linen and towels are used as a matter of course and disposable gowns and covers are provided. Although large numbers of the friendly bacteria which inhabit the colon will be expelled during the treatment, they quickly breed back up to strength and a probiotic tablet is provided to aid this process. The environment in the colon after treatment is usually better than before, thus leading to a better balance. Colon Hydrotherapy, unlike the use of laxatives or enemas, is not habit forming and actually improves the tone of the colon.


How Long Does It Take?

As a consultation is included prior to your initial treatment you will need to allow a total of 1¼ hours for your first session. Subsequent sessions allow 1 hour. Time is required for getting changed before and after treatments and actual treatment time is 30 to 40 minutes.

Is It Painful?

It is rarely painful. Any discomfort during treatment is usually the result of resistance or tension and can be overcome by trying to relax, this is helped by deep breathing. Sometimes during treatment the muscles of the colon will contract suddenly, expelling considerable amounts of waste. This may feel like cramping or gas, and may create a feeling of needing to empty the bowels. Such episodes, if they do occur, are brief and easily tolerated. All waste is expelled immediately through the tubing and into the waste system so there is never a delay or need to “hold yourself.”

Is It Embarrassing?

Not at all. You will fully maintain your personal dignity. Just you and myself will be in the room which is quiet and secure. Each step will be fully explained to you throughout your visit and your emotions or any anxieties will be acknowledged and understood. You will get changed in private and wear a gown and are covered by a towel during the treatment. Only the bottom half of your clothing need be removed. After the first treatment the majority of people say they don’t know what they were worried about.

Will I Be Okay Afterwards?

This is a common concern. Many people fit a colonic into their working day and return to work straight afterwards. It is unusual to have urgency or a need to be near a toilet after a treatment, however, for peace of mind some people prefer to go home and rest. Most likely you will feel a lightness and enjoy a sense of well-being. Some people feel tired but this shouldn’t be any more than the tiredness experienced after exercise. For some, the colonic may trigger several subsequent bowel movements for the next few hours but there won’t be any uncontrollable urgency or discomfort. It is also possible that you may feel light headed after treatment but if so, this quickly passes.

Is It Okay to Eat And Drink Before And After A Treatment?

On the day of treatment I suggest you have a light diet and plenty of water. A heavy meal is best avoided as your stomach is massaged during the treatment and would be uncomfortable. I will advise you regarding aftercare at time of the treatment including dietary advice; light nourishing food will be the most appropriate.

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

One treatment will not completely clear the colon nevertheless it should remove a significant amount of waste. Many people have a course of treatments while others just have a one off treatment. It is up to the individual how they proceed and I will offer advice based on the consultation and treatment outcome.

Are There Circumstances When Colon Hydrotherapy Is Not Advisable?

Yes. Certain conditions such as active infections, active inflammation (such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and diverticulitis), a painful fissure or painful haemorrhoids mean treatment cannot be comfortably carried out until they are healed or are in remission. Diseases such as congestive heart disease, severe uncontrolled hypertension, severe anaemia, liver cirrhosis, kidney disease, severe haemorrhaging and colo-rectal carcinoma are also contra-indications for treatment. Some physical conditions such as severe abdominal or inguinal hernias make it an unsuitable treatment. Pregnancy, especially the first three months is also an unsuitable time for a treatment.

How Much Does It Cost?

1st treatment including consultation £60.

Subsequent treatments & previous Colonics clients £60.

Making An Appointment

Joanna Priestley is the Colonic Hydrotherapist working at the York Clinic. Please phone Avril or Diane on 01904 709688 to book an appointment. It is advisable to arrive a few minutes early for your first appointment in order to fill out the confidential consultation record. If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact the Clinic and we will get back to you.