Have you ever considered having acupuncture as a treatment? Acupuncture is a very safe and effective treatment to help with a variety of conditions. A study by White (2006) found no serious adverse events and only 10.2% of minor adverse events which included: tiredness, bruising, aggravation of symptoms, and drowsiness. Acupuncture can be used to treat a number of symptoms including pain control, muscle release, increasing movement, aiding healing, improving sleep and to improve overall wellbeing. Acupuncture can be effective in treating many areas such as low back, neck, shoulder, elbow, knee, muscle injuries, tendon injuries, chronic pain, joint pain and headaches. It is also safe to use in pregnancy and can be effective for treating women’s health issues such as hot flushes and pelvic pain. Acupuncture can be used as an adjunct to your current physiotherapy treatments such as exercise, manual therapy and Pilates to improve mobility and decrease pain and swelling.
Acupuncture works by stimulating the Aδ (delta) fibres in the tissue of the body. When these nerve endings are stimulated pain relieving chemicals such as Enkephalin are released from the tissue site and travel up the nerves in the spinal cord to the brain. Once at the brain these chemicals can reduce your brains perception of a painful stimulus (White et al, 2008). Acupuncture also increases blood flow (Sandberg et al, 2003) and triggers the body’s healing response at the local site. This can assist healing of an acute injury or kick starts healing in an old injury. You can receive acupuncture around the site of your symptoms or in a totally different area. This still has an effect on your pain as the sensory and motor nerves in the body innervate regions which are connected either above or below the area. So if you have a pain in your knee, the nerves in your lower back and thigh are supplied by the same nerve. So you may receive needling around your knee, thigh and lower back.
Another form of acupuncture is dry needling. This is the use of an acupuncture needle on a local trigger point (or tight area in a muscle) to relax the muscle fibres. This can improve mobility and ease pain. While acupuncture uses the Chinese meridian lines which can also have a systemic effect on the body. For example the point in your hand between your web space of thumb and index finger is a very strong pain relieving point known as Liver 4. There are also specific points to help with insomnia and relaxation.
Acupuncture can feel different for everybody. You may be a high responder or a low responder depending on your own individual circumstances. A low responder may feel nothing while receiving acupuncture, but this does not mean that there has been no effect. While a high reactor may feel different sensations such as: tingling, aching, heaviness, tiredness, or nausea. These are all normal responses and are known as De Qi. Acupuncture may take a few sessions before you see a change. This is because it can take a number of days for a chemical response to accumulate at the treatment site and for those chemicals to have an effect. After your treatment you may feel fatigue, aching in the muscles or an initial increase in your pain.
There is a small group of people in which precautions need to be taken before having acupuncture. Your clinician will ask you to fill out a questionnaire before your treatment to ensure that they are aware of your medical history. If you have a phobia of needles this does not necessarily mean you cannot have acupuncture, as for many people you will not feel the needles going in and if they don’t see them this is often not a problem! But everyone is different so discuss this with your practitioner.
Sandberg, M., Lundeberg, T., Lindberg, L., and Gerdle, B. (2003) ‘Effects of acupuncture on skin and muscle blood flow in healthy subjects.’ European Journal of Applied Physiology. Sept; 90(1-2): 114-119.
White, A. (2006). ‘The Safety of Acupuncture – Evidence from the UK’. Acupuncture in medicine. 24(Suppl):S53-57.
White, A., Cummings, M., and Filshie J. (2008) An Introduction to Western Medical Acupuncture. Churchill Living Stone.