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.
Our physiotherapists will assess your condition using physiotherapy skills and use acupuncture alongside other advice, treatment, or exercises to aid recovery and improve quality of life.
Physiotherapists use acupuncture to relieve pain for many conditions:
- Back pain and sciatica
- Migraine and headache
- Muscular and joint pain
- Whiplash injury and neck pain
What does acupuncture treatment involve?
It will be necessary to complete a thorough assessment/examination of your symptoms 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 and discussed.
How long will the needles be in for?
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 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. At BJA we advise a minimum of 3 sessions to determine if beneficial, if no response noticed after 3 sessions we would reassess and advise accordingly. It is usual to have treatment performed on a weekly basis 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. If the needles continue to give a painful response after being in place for over a minute then let the physio know and we will adjust or remove them, acupuncture is not a test of your pain tolerance!!
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.
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
- 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.
Physiotherapists are the largest group of medical professionals in the UK practising acupuncture. The vast majority of acupuncture treatments in the UK is for musculoskeletal (physiotherapy requiring) conditions.
AACP members are Chartered Physiotherapists who had full medical training and in addition many have worked at least for one year with patients in a hospital setting or in private practice, before starting their acupuncture learning.
Acupuncture has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, (NICE), as treatment for back pain, arthritis and headache.
Research shows the benefits of acupuncture for an increasing number of conditions. It can be used commonly in conjunction with physiotherapy to treat musculoskeletal pain, arthritis, joint problems, chronic pain, headaches & migraine and persistent injuries.