Acupuncture is derived from traditional Chinese medicine but is becoming increasingly popular in Western medicine. It involves fine single-use needles being inserted into various points in the body (known as acupuncture points) in order to stimulate blood flow and a neural/nerve response. This stimulates sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles resulting in the body producing natural substances, such as pain relieving endorphins.
The main therapeutic effect of acupuncture is to alleviate pain and research has shown it does this in a number of different ways. There have been numerous articles written supporting the use of acupuncture in the treatment of low back pain, neck pain and headaches. However, many other musculoskeletal conditions can also be treated, such as frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, rotator cuff tendonitis and pain arising from osteoarthritis at any joint.
Acupuncture has an accumulative effect so it may take 4-6 sessions before achieving the desired result. Chronic conditions usually require more treatment sessions. To provide longer lasting relief it is likely, therefore, that a course of acupuncture will be required, rather than a single treatment.
At the initial appointment a full musculoskeletal assessment will be carried out to obtain a diagnosis and to make a decision on whether acupuncture is appropriate, not only for the particular condition but also for the patient, based upon their past medical history. Research has shown acupuncture to be a very safe treatment with minimal adverse reactions. Patients are always asked to sign a separate acupuncture consent form prior to any treatment being given and the location of acupuncture points will be fully explained prior to any needles being inserted. Acupuncture points are located with the aid of anatomical landmarks and there are approximately 361 points (plus extra points) on the body. Acupuncture is usually not painful as the needles are extremely fine. Once inserted, normal needle sensations range from a dull, heavy sensation to warmth, pins and needles, itching and/or numbness and the needle is gently rotated until an appropriate sensation is achieved.
Acupuncture is often used in conjunction with other treatments. For example, if pain is preventing compliance with a planned exercise program, acupuncture can be very useful to alleviate that pain sufficiently to allow the exercised to take place.
‘Dry needling’ as a form of treatment has gained in popularity recently. This is, in effect, acupuncture, as it involves the insertion of needles into local areas of pain. It is used to treat conditions such as Achilles tendinopathy and myofascial trigger points. Dry needling may be used in conjunction with other acupuncture points in order to achieve maximum results. A full explanation will be given by the physiotherapist prior to any needles being inserted.
All physiotherapists practicing acupuncture in the clinic are AACP (Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists) accredited and registered.