What is Acupuncture and How Does It Work?
Acupuncture is one of the many skills used within physiotherapy as an integrated approach to the management of pain and inflammation. Acupuncture stimulates the body to produce endorphins and oxytocin, its own pain- and stress relieving chemicals. It promotes sleep by stimulating the release of melatonin in the body and encourages a sense of wellbeing by stimulating the release of serotonin. Acupuncture also stimulates nerve fibres to block out pain signals and helps to reduce the sensitivity of tender points in the body. In doing so it can aid recovery and enhance rehabilitation. Acupuncture can be combined with other physiotherapy treatments such as exercise, manual therapy and relaxation techniques. It can also be used when other more conventional treatments have failed.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine stainless steel needles into the skin. It has been used in China for over 2,000 years and increasingly in Western medicine since the 1970s. There are many forces within the body that require balance in order to achieve health and fitness; two forces that are commonly referred to are YIN [negative] and YANG [positive]. Treatment with acupuncture is undertaken with the aim or restoring all the body systems to a state of balance (homeostasis). This is achieved by an in depth physiotherapy assessment to determine the source of the imbalance and the correct acupuncture points required to address this imbalance and facilitate the body’s return to a state of health both physically and mentally. The acupuncture needle will stimulate the flow of QI [pronounced ‘chee’], which circulates in channels or meridians within the body. The QI circulates within the deeper organs of the body, but connects to the superficial skin. In the state of a normal healthy body, a balance exists between these systems. Both the superficial energy and the deeper energy can be influenced by the stimulation of specific acupuncture points. If injury, disease, emotional trauma or infection occurs, the natural flow of QI within the meridians and organs may well be affected and the result is an altered flow, either a slowing or stagnation of QI causing pain and inflammation, or a deficit of QI, which may cause weakness, exhaustion and longer debilitating disease. The stimulation of relevant acupuncture points may free stagnation, reduce excess or indeed, increase QI to the specific area or organ and thus help to restore normal QI flow and balance.
Conventional Acupuncture involves the use of single use, pre-sterilised, disposable needles of varying widths, lengths and materials that pierce the skin at the Acupuncture points. The Physiotherapist will determine the locations of the Acupuncture points, based upon the assessment of the cause of the imbalance. A number of needles may be used at each treatment and these are typically left in position for some 20-30 minutes before being removed.
Trigger Point Acupuncture
Trigger Point Acupuncture may also be used to facilitate relaxation in specific muscles following trauma such as whiplash injury; for longer term unresolving muscle pain such as repetitive strain injury (RSI) or as a means to obtain increased muscle length in order to aid stretch and rehabilitation such as sports injuries . Here the needle is placed into the affected muscle until it is felt to relax under the needle and then removed. Trigger point needling is often much quicker and therefore does not require the 20-30 minute treatment time.
Can anyone have Acupuncture?
There are certain health conditions that may stop you receiving acupuncture or mean that the treatment should be used with caution. It is important to let your physiotherapist know:
• If you have ever experienced a fit, seizure, faint or if you have epilepsy;
• If you have a pacemaker or any other electrical implant;
• If you have a bleeding disorder e.g. haemophilia;
• If you are taking anti-coagulants or any other medication;
• If you have damage to heart valves, or have any risk of active infections;
• If you are pregnant or trying to conceive;
• If you have a known metal allergy – specifically to stainless steel;
• If you have a needle phobia;
• If you have a known infection or poor skin condition in the area to be treated;
• If you have a deficient or weakened immune system;
• If you have diabetes;
• If you have low blood pressure;
• If you have been prescribed any medicine;
• If you have cold/flu symptoms or feel generally unwell.
The Benefits of Acupuncture
Acupuncture stimulates the body to produce endorphins and oxytocin, its own pain and stress relieving chemicals. It promotes sleep by stimulating the release of melatonin in the body and encourages a sense of wellbeing by stimulating the release of serotonin. Acupuncture also stimulates nerve fibres to block out pain signals and helps to reduce the sensitivity of tender points in the body