Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

July 8, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, Cognitive Hypnotherapy, Hypnotherapy, Research

In many countries the use of complementary and alternative approaches to healthcare is increasing. Researchers recently distributed a questionnaire to all GP’s registered within the Liverpool Primary Care Trust to determine the referral patterns and attitudes towards the various complementary medical approaches among GP’s. This survey was a follow up to questionnaires collected in 1999.

The researchers reported that the most popular complementary therapies are still acupuncture, hypnotherapy and chiropractic, with the least popular being aromatherapy, medical herbalism and reflexology. GP’s felt most comfortable with acupuncture and expressed a greater desire for it to receive NHS funding than for other therapies.

In recent years acupuncture has received an increased level of endorsement from NICE – The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, which currently recommend the use of acupuncture in the short term management of lower back pain, tension headaches and migraines. NICE set the recommendations and treatment guidelines for doctors and medical professionals in the NHS regarding the treatment of patients.

The British Acupuncture Council is the main regulatory body for the UK’s 3000 traditional acupuncturists. All it’s members, of which I’m one have had an extensive training in Acupuncture to degree level involving a training that typically lasts 3-4 years.

I have had extensive experience and training in Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine and hypnotherapy and provide traditional acupuncture and hypnotherapy at my clinical base in Berkhamsted.

If you’re suffering with a physical or emotional problem and you’re wondering what acupuncture or hypnotherapy could do for you, then please feel free to ring me on 07717 515 013 or email me at


You can find details of the research into GP’s attitudes toward complementary approaches here:



June 19, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, Research

An interesting study in The Journal of Psychiatric Research has studied the impact of combining acupuncture therapy with a commonly used anti-depressant, paroxetine.

The trial was a 6 week randomized controlled trial with a 4-week follow-up and involved 160 patients with major depressive disorder. The trial participants were randomly assigned to receive either paroxetine alone, or paroxetine combined with 18 sessions of manual acupuncture or electrical acupuncture.

The researchers noted that the addition of manual acupuncture and electro acupuncture produced a significantly greater reduction from baseline in depression scores than the use of paroxetine alone, and that the clinical response was markedly greater in manual acupuncture (69.8%) and electro acupuncture (69.6%) groups than the group treated with paroxetine alone (41.7%). The proportion of patients who required an increase dose of the anti-depressant due to symptom aggravation was significantly lower with manual acupuncture (5.7%) and electro acupuncture (8.9%) than paroxetine alone (22.9%)

At 4 weeks follow-up after the end of their acupuncture treatment, patients with electro acupuncture, but not manual acupuncture, continued to show significantly greater clinical improvement. The incidence of adverse events was not different in the three groups.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture can accelerate the clinical response to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and prevent the aggravation of depression, and that in addition electro acupuncture may have a long-lasting enhancement of the antidepressant effect.


You can read the full details of the trial here:



June 16, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Cognitive Hypnotherapy, Hypnotherapy, Research

While conducting clinical trials with hypnotherapy that honour the individuality of each client is complicated, a recent pilot study by researchers on the use of hypnotherapy for managing stress yielded some interesting results not only in terms of the experience of the patients using the hypnosis, but also on a physiological marker for inflammation – considered a reflection of the stress response.

The researchers gave 11 participants a self hypnosis CD designed to recondition and improve participants’ emotional and physical reactions to perceived work and life stressors. The patients then had their subjective measures of coping, resilience, and stress tolerance measured, as well as, IL-6, an objective blood measure of inflammatory activity. The pilot study took place over 12 weeks.

The participants in the trial reported a significant decrease in negative thinking patterns such as, self-deprecating statements, perfectionism, and pessimistic thinking, and an improvement in eating/nutritional habits following the hypnosis as well as a reduction in the marker for inflammation.

It’s interesting that even a generic self hypnosis cd could produce such positive change and one could wonder how those results might be improved upon with a highly tailored and individualized hypnotherapy program working with a hypnotherapist in the context of a therapeutic relationship. In this context, it’s possible to work  with suggestive work that is personally tailored to be specific to each client – a very important part of good hypnotherapy since everybody experiences their problem and their idea of what constitutes a solution, in a very different way. For me, and for those using Cognitive Hypnotherapy, this is a key factor in effective hypnotherapy.

All in all the research was suggestive that hypnotherapy can produce some promising results in managing stress, good news for anyone that might be looking for how hypnotherapy could help reduce their stress levels naturally.

I provide hypnotherapy for stress management at my hypnotherapy clinics in Berkhamsted and Milton Keynes and can be contacted by email or telephone if you have any questions about what hypnotherapy could do for your stress levels.

The details of the trial mentioned can be found here:



June 13, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, Research

In some recent research into acupuncture and IVF outcomes, a research team in Brazil set out to evaluate the effect of acupuncture and moxibustion as a supportive treatment in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) when embryo implantation had failed.

A prospective, randomised controlled clinical trial was conducted with 84 infertile patients who had had at least two unsuccessful attempts of IVF. The patients were randomised in three groups: a control group, a sham group, and an acupuncture group. Acupuncture was performed on the first and seventh day of ovulation induction, on the day before ovarian puncture and on the day after embryo transfer.

In the acupuncture group, patients were treated with moxibustion at nine acupuncture points on the back and stomach and had needling at 12 points. In the sham group, needles were inserted in eight areas that did not correspond to known acupuncture points.

The results of the trial demonstrated that the clinical pregnancy rate in the acupuncture group was significantly higher than that in the control and sham groups (35.7% vs 7.1% vs 10.7%)

In this study, the researchers concluded that acupuncture and moxibustion increased pregnancy rates when used as an adjuvant treatment in women undergoing IVF, when embryo implantation had failed.

The study was reported in the March issue of The British Medical Journals’s publication ‘Acupuncture in Medicine’. You can find it here:

Acupuncture and IVF outcomes




May 3, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, Research

On the subject of acupuncture for migraines, acupuncture has already received considerable endorsement in being recommended by NICE (National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence) and as Mark Bovey noted in a recent article about acupuncture for headache, NICE noted that in the prevention of migraine, the only treatment they could recommend was acupuncture.

More recent research has compared the effectiveness of acupuncture when compared with Valproic acid, a medication used to treat migraine headaches; this  research  demonstrated  that at 6 months post treatment acupuncture produced better results than the medication group with an incidence of no adverse events. (Adverse events were  47.8% in the group treated with the medication).

100 patients were used in the study, divided into two groups and 10mg of Rizatriptan wafers were allowed as needed to treat the migraine attacks. At the 6 month mark not only were lower pain intensity scores recorded in the acupuncture group, but there was also less Rizatriptan use indicating an additional benefit of acupuncture in reducing medication use. This alongside the non-existence  of any adverse events demonstrates acupuncture’s use in assisting patients who are contending with headaches and migraine.

(You can find details of the study here)

If you suffer with headaches or migraine and are curious about what acupuncture could do for you please feel free to email me at or telephone on 07717 515 013. I help many people with headaches from my acupuncture clinic in Berkhamsted and you can feel free to enquire about acupuncture without any obligation to book an appointment

April 8, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, Research

In a recent pilot study of acupuncture for period pain, researchers in turkey compared the effects of acupuncture against NSAID’s (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) for a group of randomized women with primary dysmenorrhoea – more commonly known as period pain.

Although the study was small with a short follow up period, after one months treatment the pain levels were significantly reduced in both groups with average pain scores decreased by 52.2% in the medication group, and 69.5% in the acupuncture group. The researchers note their pilot study warrants further large scale trials to further clarify the effect of acupuncture for period pain

(Details of the study can be found here:

Period pain occurs more frequently in younger women than older women and is generally more severe the longer the duration of the period, both cigarette smoking and an earlier age of the period are associated with the condition. The symptoms of the pain are produced with the contractions of the uterus that occur during menstruation. Uterine contractions hamper the blood supply to the endometrium and these contractions promote the death of the endometrial tissue so that it can leave the body and fresh tissue can be produced in turn. In around 5-20% of women it’s estimated that dysmenorrhoea becomes so severe as to interfere with daily activities.

If you’re interested in acupuncture for period pain, The British Acupuncture Council produce a fact sheet explaining a little about the condition and some of the evidence for acupuncture’s ability to help. You can find that fact sheet here: acupuncture for period pain

I provide traditional acupuncture in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. If you’re curious about how acupuncture might help you, please feel free to ring me on 07717 515 013 or email on

March 4, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, In the media, Research

Sean Heneghan - acupuncturist in berkhamsted and milton keynesIn recent research into acupuncture for gout, Arthritis UK report that researchers have identified that acupuncture is an effective treatment for the condition.

Researchers analysed the results of ten different randomized controlled trials including 852 patients.  The research team found that six studies containing 512 patients made a strong case for reduction in the levels of uric acid in those patients who received acupuncture, and four studies comprising 380 patients also suggested a decline in the visual symptoms of the condition. Two of the studies reviewed showed no significant difference of treatment, but on the whole the review favored acupuncture with the lead researcher Won Bok Lee noting “The results of the studies included here suggest that acupuncture is efficacious as complementary therapy for gouty arthritis patients”. 

Gout is a condition of acute inflammatory arthritis in which uric acid levels rise in the blood and crystallize. Very often the condition affects the big toe in the foot but the condition can also manifest as kidney stones or urate nephropathy. The condition is marked by acute, intense pain and affects around 1.4% of the UK population, the prevalence of which increases with age to around 3% in women and 7% in men aged over 75 years.

As well as The Arthritis UK page on acupuncture for gout which you can find here, patients curious about how acupuncture can help may also be interested in The British Acupuncture Council’s fact sheet detailing previous evidence of acupuncture in the treatment of the condition. You can find The British Acupuncture Council’s page here:

This systematic review is an additional piece of research which has been published in recent months suggesting acupuncture offers benefit for a number of arthritic conditions. Arthritis UK’s new report on complementary therapies showed recently acupuncture’s effect on low back pain, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, all of which indicate acupuncture is a safe, effective treatment that may help patients with common chronic pain conditions better manage their health.

If you’re interested in either acupuncture in milton keynes or Berkhamsted please feel free to contact me on 07717 515 013 with any questions you might have.





February 28, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, Research

In recent research into acupuncture for Bell’s palsy, researchers from China have determined that those patients who received a stronger style of acupuncture had a better chance of recovering their full facial function at a six month period then patients receiving a milder form of needling.

During acupuncture treatment, the needle sensation known as ‘de qi’ describes the mild aching, tingling and heavy feeling that comes from adequate stimulation of a nerve ending (or an acupuncture point). Different acupuncturists and different styles of acupuncture put different emphasis on achieving this sensation. Japanese acupuncture for example places little emphasis on this feeling, Chinese acupuncture often puts a strong emphasis on achieving it. For many years it has been unclear as to what extent de qi (which could be thought of as the dosage of acupuncture) contributes to the treatment effect with different styles of acupuncture professing different theories. This trial appears to show however that at least in the case of Bell’s palsy, stronger acupuncture confers a larger benefit.

In the trial 317 adults with Bell’s palsy underwent five half-hour acupuncture treatments for four weeks. Half of the participants were assigned to a group that was designed to illicit de qi sensations, the other half had the needles inserted but received no manipulation and therefore little needle sensation. Neurologists were assigned to determining scores for facial function without knowing which patients received which kind of acupuncture.

The researchers found that 94 percent of participants who received de qi sensation completely recovered their facial function by the end of six months, while 77 percent did in the other acupuncture group.

Interestingly Dr. Jian Kong, one of the researchers note the de qi is rarely measured in clinical trials, which could be a key factor in the varying results of acupuncture trials. On this trial alone, it would suggest de qi sensation is a critical component of the treatment effect and needs to be accounted for when studying the effect of acupuncture.

Full details of the trial are available at Reuter’s health here on acupuncture for bell’s palsy


February 14, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, Research

Acupuncture for fertility is a subject which has received a lot of attention in recent years which is perhaps unsurprising given the emerging evidence that our fertility levels are in decline and increasing numbers of us are finding it difficult to conceive. It’s suspected that this drop is due at least in part to our modern environment and the many chemicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis, but another potential cause of declining fertility, and one which may more readily affect women and the balance of their hormones, is stress.

When it comes to stress, evolution has put us in a curious predicament. It’s given us a nervous system with a sophisticated fight or flight response and yet we’ve evolved a culture that’s rapidly outgrown it which means that the kind of stresses we encounter in modern city living still trigger the same kind of physiological responses that were appropriate for helping us flee predators on an African Savannah  These days the most dangerous predator you’re likely to encounter is your boss, but it’s highly likely the fast paced existence of modern living is still triggering those ancient fight or flight responses and you’re contending with the effects of it. If you’re a woman trying to conceive this could be particularly detrimental to the delicate balance of your hormonal system so the more resources you have at hand to reduce your stress levels the better equipped you’ll be to be in a good place for conceiving.

So what effect can acupuncture have on fertility? Much of the research on acupuncture for fertility has focused on acupuncture around the time of embryo transfer in IVF and while there are trials with different conclusions, The British Acupuncture Council’s factsheet on fertility notes  “Most clinical trials to date suggest that acupuncture may be useful in the embryo transfer stage of in vitro fertilisation, and results in an increased pregnancy rate and a greater number of live births”. While this is encouraging it’s also important to highlight that studying acupuncture in this way is somewhat removed from how Chinese Medicine might be typically used in preparing the ground for fertility. Much of Chinese Medicine is focused around identifying patterns of both imbalance and balance and helping you understand the connections between what’s going on in your mind and your body and how the two interact. As such treatment would typically involve much more than simply acupuncture before and after embryo transfer and generally include a consideration of your health in much more detail.  However it’s a useful place to begin if you’re curious about acupuncture research into fertility. The British Acupuncture Council is a very useful resource for many aspects of Traditional Acupuncture and you can find them here:

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or would like to book treatment with myself at my Berkhamsted Clinic please feel free to ring me on 07717 515 013.


February 6, 2013 · by Sean Heneghan · Acupuncture, In the media, Research

Acupuncture clinics in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire

In some interesting research news on the subject of acupuncture and sleep, researchers from Tianjin  University in China have been assessing the effect of acupuncture stimulation on brain wave patterns using EEG (electroencephalograph) signals

According to the researchers, earlier experimental studies on animal models have illustrated that acupuncture reduced gamma waves and increased alpha and theta waves in a pattern that corresponds to those observed in sleep; this particular study looked at the impact of acupuncture stimulation on the brain wave patterns of healthy volunteers and ended up concluding that acupuncture increased the relative power of EEG slow wave (delta band) and decreased the relative power of fast wave (alpha and beta bands) brain wave patterns.

The researchers’ note that their study provides a plausible interpretation of how acupuncture could improve the quality of our sleep and is another interesting research piece in a line of modern research that attempts to understand how acupuncture stimulation affects the brain. On the subject of sleep and acupuncture, one patient who has gone public with the benefits she’s received is Toyah Wilcox who’s featured heavily in the media of late crediting acupuncture with resolving her 40 years of insomnia. A few blog posts ago I linked to a British Acupuncture Council video she recorded talking about her experiences of having acupuncture which you can find again here. One of the useful things for prospective patients thinking about having acupuncture is to hear from patients that already have it and Toyah’s brief video can be useful if you’re considering having treatment yourself.  As an advocate of acupuncture, Toyah has volunteered to participate in Acupuncture awareness week will be running from 25 February – 3 March 2013 and is focused on giving the public greater access to information about the treatment. In line with this The British Acupuncture Council produce an archive of fact sheets and review papers on acupuncture for specific conditions and while on the subject of sleep I thought I’d mention their resource which you can find here on the evidence of acupuncture for insomnia

I help patients with a number of health problems from my acupuncture clinics in Milton Keynes and Berkhamsted, if you have any questions, please feel free to phone me on 07717 515 013.


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