Sharp needles, sheer pain and a hefty helping of scepticism summed up Priti Heath’s assumptions of acupuncture.

But that was a decade ago.

The former Wharfer is now a fully-qualified therapist in Oriental Medicine, having practised her sideline career in Chinese hospitals and her south east London base.

The self-confessed “running freak” was undergoing massage sessions at her gym which sparked her interest.

It was at Romford’s Academy of Oriental Medicine that she picked up skills in acupuncture, qualifying in 2007, and taking on clients at Blackheath’s BlissKi in 2013.

“There is a certain amount of intrigue about acupuncture,” said the 45-year-old IT project manager.

“People are sometimes scared. Often, they will be here for a Chinese massage and I wouldn’t force them to have the needles, but I ask them if they want to try them.

“You put the needles on the skin and you send electrical impulses through which relax the muscles.

“People can get huge amounts of pain relief and I get clients who just want the needles for relaxation – they are just really stressed out.”

Sessions last at least 20 minutes and the fine painless pins are aligned to one or more of the body’s 12 meridian channels.

If someone was suffering from an ankle injury, Priti might place needles around the foot and more around nearby kidney and bladder lines.

Prescriptions for Chinese herb and medicinal treatments are also popular.

Red flower Hong Hua combinations are said to be beneficial for blood health when balanced with other varieties, while a mixture including Chuan Xiong may also ease muscle tightness.

“I get people who are just desperate to have something natural,” she added.

“They have been put on steroids, or given strong drugs, and they quite like to come to me so they don’t have to continue taking them.

“In China the hospitals practise both Western and Chinese medicine.

“Doctors would give steroids to people who wanted a quick fix but also offer herbs and say ‘take the steroids, but then for the long-term, you need to take the herbs’.

“It’s good to have a balance – I would never say to someone with heart problems ‘come and just have Chinese medicine’, but it’s definitely got its place.”

One hour of acupuncture costs £65 and treatments are by appointment only.

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