Elaine Gibbons has been working as an acupuncturist for nearly ten years. During that time she has seen her clientele grow until now she is dealing with about 30 patients a week.

The use of acupuncture has increased in popularity so much that some GPs are also now referring patients in the hope that an acupuncturist can help.

Elaine, from Brighton, says about a quarter of the patients she sees come to her because they say they are suffering from stress.

However, about 50 per cent have stress as an underlying factor to other problems.

She said: "Things like a bad back can be triggered off by stress, as can sleep disorders and headaches."

When a patient first arrives, Elaine takes them through a thorough case history so she can pinpoint what is wrong and how she can help. When they arrive for future sessions, there can be other factors that are taken into account.

Elaine said: "They may have had a bad day at work or be distressed because they have just lost a pet so they may need extra support.

"It is important to look at things as a whole rather than just concentrate on the one issue or problem. If a bad back is related to stress, dealing with the stress should also help the back.

"I see a lot of people who are working in a stressful job. When they arrive for a session, even the simple act of lying down can help them start to relax."

Initially, people can occasionally be a bit apprehensive about having needles put in them.

Elaine said: "I have never had anyone refuse to continue because it hurts them too much. Most people hardly notice while others are more aware but are able to deal with it. Nowadays, people are more open minded and willing to give things a go.

"The majority of the people I see are between 30 and 50 but I do help a 90-yearold and two 12 year olds."

The Chinese and other Eastern cultures have been using acupuncture to restore, promote and maintain good health for about 2,500 years.

In Britain, study of traditional acupuncture really began to flourish only in the Fifties and early Sixties.

Today, 2,200 acupuncturists are registered with the British Acupuncture Council.

Acupuncture aims to improve the overall well being of the patient, rather than just treating specific symptoms in isolation.

Traditional Chinese philosophy states that our health is dependent on the body's motivating energy -

known as Qi - moving in a smooth and balanced way through a series of meridians (channels) beneath the skin.

For any number of reasons, Qi may become unbalanced and lead to illness. By inserting fine needles into the channels of energy or Qi, an acupuncturist can stimulate the body's own healing response and help restore its natural balance.

To assess how the energy is flowing in an individual's body, an acupuncturist is likely to feel the pulses on both wrists, noting their quality, rhythm and strength. The structure, colour and coating of the tongue also give a good guide to a person's state of health.

Traditional acupuncture takes a holistic approach, treating the whole person to regain the balance between the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the individual.

Acupuncture has proved to be effective in a wide range of conditions including arthritis, migraines, strokes, depression and addictions.

In many cases, acupuncture treatment can induce a state of deep relaxation.

Because of this, many patients find acupuncture a useful way to manage stress, whatever the cause of that stress and whatever symptoms it produces.

As well as helping to manage stress, many people find that it can also lead to increased energy levels, better appetite and sleep as well as an enhanced sense of overall well being.

For more details about acupuncture, contact Elaine on 01273 562676 or the British Acupuncture Council on 0208 735 0400.