Acupuncture is form of treatment offered by trained physiotherapists. There is good evidence to show that it is effective and it is often used alongside other treatments like exercise and mobilisation of your joints and muscles.
What is acupuncture?
The traditional Chinese philosophy is that when the body is healthy, energy which is known as ‘qi’ flows freely along pathways known as meridians. Each of these pathways is linked to an organ within the body such as the heart and lung. This energy flow can be affected and disrupted by a number of factors including physical, mental, emotional, anxiety, stress, anger, fear, poor nutrition, weather conditions, infections, poisons and trauma. By inserting needles into points along the pathways where the energy has been disrupted can help the restore the energy to flow freely again.
Also the acupuncture needles have been shown to act on ‘our paingate’. The insertion of the needle sends impulses up to the brain which releases endogenous opioids or ‘our bodys own painkillers’ from the brain. This helps to reduce or even eliminate the pain.
Can I have acupuncture?
Your physiotherapist will discuss with you whether they think acupuncture can benefit you. However if you have one of the things below unfortunately acupuncture is not safe to be used on you;
- You have a metal allergy – stainless steel
- You have a phobia of needles
- You have an infection in the area to be needled
There are also times that acupuncture needs to be used with caution. The conditions listed below would not prevent you from having acupuncture but can change the effects of acupuncture. Please let your physiotherapist know if you have any of the conditions below:
- You are pregnant or trying to conceive
- Heart pace maker
- Heart pace maker in place
Will it work?
Everyone is individual and also the effects of acupuncture vary between different individuals. Acupuncture does not work for everyone and also the number of sessions required to have an effect vary between individuals.
How is acupuncture carried out?
Very fine needles are very quickly inserted through the skin into the tissues beneath. These needles are only used once and are sterile. Occasionally people report that when the needle goes in it can feel like a bearable pinprick or scratch like sensation.
Once the needle is inserted there are a number of sensations that can be felt including deep ache, heat or heaviness. This is normal and a sign called ‘De Qi’. This is signalling to you that your bodys own painkillers are being released.
When the acupuncture is used to release muscle spasm and trigger points the needles only need to stay in for a short time until the muscle releases.
When acupuncture is carried out to help energy flow along the meridians the needles will stay in for longer, normally between 15 and 30 minutes.
Depending on the choice of treatment by your physiotherapist for you the needles can be placed in one of three places:
- Around the painful area
- Away from the painful area
- On the opposite side of the body
How many treatments are needed?
Again the number of treatments required depends on the individual. Some people only require one whereas others can need at least 6 treatments to gain the best result. It can take at least 4 sessions of acupuncture to feel an effect. Once the best effect has been gained the length of time this effect can last also varies. Some people find that the symptoms never return whereas others may need long term regular treatments to ensure the lasting effect.
Is acupuncture safe?
Members of the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) are required to train to a minimum standard and are bound by professional codes of conduct through the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and Health Professions Council (HPC). The treatment of acupuncture is safer than most drugs however there can be ‘side effects’ in some people such as:
- Some discomfort at needle site
- Drowsiness and sleepiness following treatment
- Bruising at the needle site
- Temporary pain increases
- Feeling faint
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