What is Medical Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice where fine needles are inserted at specific points of the body to allow for a flow of energy, or Qi. Medical acupuncture is based on the same practice of using needles (needling) and how it interacts with our nervous system. It is used in western cultures following a medical diagnosis and in the UK is carried out by some GPs, pain clinics and hospices as well as by private practitioners.
What ailments can acupuncture be used for?
There are a multitude of uses for acupuncture, including:
- chronic pain, such as back pain and neck pain;
- osteoarthritis-related knee pain;
- joint pain;
- dental pain;
- postoperative pain.
How does acupuncture work?
As with Chinese acupuncture, fine needles are inserted into the skin and muscle. The theory behind acupuncture is that it stimulates the nervous system on different levels which include local reflexes to increase capillary growth and therefore blood flow, it initiates muscle fibres to relax and elongate and releases neuro chemicals from our spine and brain which are responsible for pain regulation.
An acupuncture treatment is intended to be pain-free and completely relaxing. A little discomfort and tingling may be felt at first, particularly if it’s a first-time treatment. But most people find the process soothing and comforting which in itself can assist in healing and pain management. One of the neuro chemicals released is serotonin which is a multi-function hormone which contributes to a feeling of well-being and contributes to the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Because of this, patients often feel relaxed and sleep well after a treatment.
We occasionally use electro-acupuncture for more chronic issues. This is where a small electric current is passed through the needles and increases the stimulation to the nervous system described above. The aim is to ‘reset’ persistent pain patterns firing off from the brain.
What are the benefits of acupuncture?
Apart from its use as a therapy used in tandem with other prescribed treatments, acupuncture does have several further benefits:
- Stress reduction: acupuncture can lower stress hormones and regulate mood to reduce anxiety;
- Reduce desk-related pain: neck pain, back pain, joint tension from sitting at a desk all day can be alleviated;
- Reduce insomnia: acupuncture can relieve muscle tension as well as stress and anxiety, all of which can cause insomnia.
- Overall wellbeing: the ‘feel good’ effect of acupuncture has a positive impact on mood and health, increasing positivity and general wellness.
A treatment that works for one person won’t have the same results for another. Those who regularly subscribe to acupuncture extol its virtues and experience many wide-ranging health and wellness benefits. We sometimes use acupuncture as part of a patient’s treatment, for example with golf elbow or tennis elbow and see some great results.
We use medical acupuncture as part of an Osteopathy session, or as a stand alone treatment.