What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of treatment that promotes healing. It involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points of the body. It has been used for thousands of years in China and more recently since the 1970s in Western Medicine. The explanation of how acupuncture works varies between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the Western approach, but both support the use of acupuncture in pain relief.

Physiotherapists use acupuncture to relieve pain for a number of conditions:

  • Back pain and sciatica
  • Migraine and headache
  • Muscular and joint pain
  • Whiplash injury and neck pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoarthritis.

What does acupuncture treatment involve?

It will be necessary to complete a thorough assessment/examination of your symptoms in order to establish if acupuncture is an appropriate form of treatment for you. It is therefore important that you give an accurate account of your medical history and any medication that you are taking. The selection of specific points on your body is based on your condition and the presentation of symptoms. These can be inserted close to the painful area or away from it and in some cases on the opposite side of your body.

Acupuncture is not suitable for everyone and there are 3 situations in which acupuncture would not be appropriate which are as follows:

  • If you are needle phobic.
  • If you have a known infection in the area to be treated.
  • If you have a metal allergy (stainless steel).

Any medical conditions that would prevent you receiving acupuncture treatment would be identified through completing a medical questionnaire and you would be asked to complete a ‘consent to treatment’ form.

How long will the needles be in for?

Again this will vary according to your condition. More commonly needles are left in place for between 5 - 30 minutes. The initial treatment may be short in order to gauge your response to treatment and subsequent treatments will be based upon this response.

How many treatment sessions will be required?

The number of treatment sessions can vary. Some patients respond quickly while others require a longer course of treatment before the cumulative benefits are felt. Usually those with chronic conditions require more treatment. It is usual to have treatment performed on a weekly basis in order to improve the outcome.

How many needles will be used?

Most commonly a treatment will involve the insertion of between 2 – 10 needles.

Is acupuncture painful?

When acupuncture needles are inserted a sharp pricking sensation may be felt which should be temporary and give only mild discomfort.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is safer than the many of the drug treatments used. However, any procedure that involves inserting needles into the body has some potential problems but these remain minimal. Needles used are therefore single-use, sterile and disposable.

Physiotherapists practising acupuncture are bound by strict codes of practice and regulated by the Acupuncture Association of Physiotherapists (AACP) to ensure that treatment is safe, sterile and hygienic at all times. All practicing physiotherapists will have successfully completed an approved acupuncture course and are required to adhere to the required number of continuous professional development (CPD) hours to ensure that practice is evidence based.

Are there any side-effects?

Some minor side effects may be experienced during or after treatment, but these are rare. They are as follows:

  • Bruising or local bleeding.
  • Fatigue.
  • Light headedness/fainting.
  • Local soreness.
  • Allergy to the needles.

How does acupuncture work and is it effective?

Currently, there is not one scientific explanation that explains the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of acupuncture. This is because there are a number therapeutic effects and it will very much depend on the condition being treated. It is proposed that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system through the release of special chemicals in the body which can help to alleviate pain and reduce the perception of pain. There is robust evidence supporting acupuncture as an effective pain relief option. It does not necessarily benefit all patients, but frequently, good results are achieved when more conventional treatment has failed.

For more information about acupuncture or how we can help you please click to contact PhysioFunction or call 0800 043 0327