Acupuncture is one of the skills used in physiotherapy as part of an integrated approach to the management of pain and inflammation.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture stems back to traditional Chinese medicine formed over 1000 years BC. It is based on a holistic concept of treatment which regards ill health as a manifestation of imbalance on the body’s energy, known as “Qi” (pronounced “chee”). By inserting a thin needle (width of a hair) into specific points of the body, Qi is stimulated and restores the body’s natural balance.
Eastern scientific research has shown that acupuncture can reduce pain by stimulating the brain and spinal cord to produce natural pain-relieving chemicals (endorphine, melatonin and serotonin). The needles cause micro-trauma, creating vasodilation and increased vasular permeability to the site of pain. These processes assist the body’s healing process and hence, acupuncture can be used as an adjunct to physiotherapy treatment to promote recovery and improve quality of life.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is generally a very safe method of treatment.
Single-use, pre-sterile, disposable, single packed needles are used in the clinic. These are supplied in guide-tubes for easy insertion which means that there is no risk of anything touching the needle during the process.
There are a some health conditions which do contraindicate the use of acupuncture. Before your session, the physiotherapist will go through a check list and let you know if it is inappropriate for it to be performed.
It is recommended that you have eaten 2 hours prior receiving acupuncture. On your first session, no more than 6 needles will be used for a total duration of 15 minutes.
Does acupuncture work or is it all just a myth?
The use of acupuncture needling for the treatment of pain is supported by an ever-growing body of scientific evidence.
Scientific research has examined the effectiveness of acupuncture for various conditions. In recent years, large-scale studies have emerged which have helped to support the benefits of acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture combined with physiotherapy is widely accepted within both the National Health Service (NHS) and private practice. This is evident in the recommendation by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) that acupuncture should be available as a cost-effective short-term treatment for persistent non-specific low back pain (source: NICE 2009).
What does acupuncture feel like?
When the needle is inserted, the sensation is often described as a tingling or dull ache. During treatment, patients commonly experience a heaviness in the limbs or a pleasant feeling of relaxation.
How often will I need treatment?
This varies between patients. Ultimatly, acupucnture has a short term relief (typically 2-3 days but can be much longer) and therefore, it is a course rather than a one off session. Each individual client will repsond differently to the acupucture and after 3 sessions, you should have a good knowlegde on how effective acupuncture will be for you.