First time encounter with acupuncture

While I am generally sceptical of anything that does not smell of Western medicine, I am also quite a curious person, happy to try new things.

I had been keen to try acupuncture for years, but never found the right opportunity.

Enter Nina Smith, the kiwi acupuncturist who just started offering her services at Topnotch Healthclub Blackfriars, the original and main home of my clinic.

The tightly concentrated vs. the wider focus

It seems that you could separate acupuncture into two variants:

1. There is the clinical, laser-guided release of tension and/or pain in one particular muscle or a muscle group. Or the release of pain and stiffness in a joint.

2. And then there is the slightly esoteric sounding but much more ambitious and comprehensive effort to “make your Chi flow better”, which claims to address all kinds of ailments, from anxiety to digestive disorders, to high blood pressure, to addictions.

I went for no.2. I did mention my addiction to milk chocolate to her. Will the friendly, petite acupuncture fairy wave her wand and make it disappear?

The interview

It all starts with a rather comprehensive interview where Nina moves sleuth-like from topic to topic to find out which things bother me most in life. For a moment, I forget my suspicions about the all-encompassing approach: Talking exclusively about the challenges in my life makes me look forward to switching to the needle part.


The attack

Nina is what you want your therapist to be: She makes you feel at ease by exuding competence, and by being calm, confident and friendly.

She uses a tapping technique on your skin to mask the moment when she sticks a needle in you, so any apprehension I may have had about that was completely unnecessary. Having said that, I am reasonably good with needles, I have no obsession to watching people stabbing me, but I will definitely not faint if I do.

This is where it turns into one of the more amazing experiences in my life. The 10-20 seconds after the needle is placed bring a completely unknown but pleasant sensation: Just as Nina suggested, a warmth starts spreading out from the point of entry, as if she had injected me with a pleasantly warm liquid that spreads out evenly like a cloth soaking up a spillage.

The sensation gets repeated every time, even though once a bit of wriggling is required to get it going. I get stabbed with very thin but long needles in my big toes close to the joint, in my thumbs close to the hand, in my elbows and once in my forehead between the eyebrows.

The assailant leaves me for about 10 mintues, briefly comes back in to wriggle needles about to re-start the liquid-injection effect and after another 10 minutes she comes back in to remove the needles.

The aftermath

I don’t feel as if my life has suddenly become heaps easier, but I am impressed by having had a very unique new physical experience and I am much more open to its potential effects.

Based on what I hear from friends and clients who have had acupuncture, the challenge with these kind of therapies is that sometimes it will take a good few sessions before you get a lasting improvement.

So far, I have had two and I did feel full of energy after the second one, even though I am always sceptical as to how much that may have been due to the treatment, but I am looking forward to having a few more and see where it takes me.

Call Topnotch Healthclub Blackfriars on 020 7867 1222 to book a session with Nina (initial consultation and treatment is 1.5 hours at £70, further treatments are 1 hour at £60) or email her at