Hi guys!! Sorry it’s been a wee while since my last post. I’ve had a tonne on trying to get everything organised with Physifitt. It’s a full on time but man it’s fun! Premises all sorted now so can’t get too much more exciting than that!!
But anyway – back to the blog!
I’ve had a lot of enquiries recently about acupuncture and it got me to thinking a little more about what information is out there for people. Hopefully this post will help to clear up any questions that you might have about acupuncture and it’s use.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a complementary therapy which involves the application of fine needles in to specific acupoints – or meridians – around the body. It is used to treat a variety of physical and mental aches and pains. Acupuncture has been around for a long time – in China they’ve been using it for over 2000 years and in Western medicine since the 1970s. With it being around for that length of time it must do something right??
So how exactly does acupuncture work?
The Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists tell us that acupuncture works by stimulating your body’s natural pain relief – endorphins and oxytocin – to help reduce your pain and stress levels. It helps you sleep by increasing your melatonin levels and improves your well being by promoting the release of seratonin. You don’t need to go reaching for pharmaceuticals – your body produces all of these on a daily basis and acupuncture helps promote them. In effect you get a really good physiological, biological and chemical response to acupuncture which may help to improve your symptoms.
Interestingly, there has been a lot evidence in to the placebo effect of acupuncture. In fact, my own Masters dissertation project looked at this! We have found that there are no real immediate differences between actual acupuncture and sham acupuncture for non-specific mechanical lower back pain. However, at a year’s follow up, the true acupuncture group still had better outcomes on pain and functional measures. You can read in to this as you wish – my thoughts are that the physiological response we’ve touched on above helps in the longer term.
That all sounds great but what is it good for?
The evidence tells us that acupuncture is good for some things but not all. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (this is the group that provides all medical professionals in the UK with guidance on the most effective treatment methods) have ran many randomised controlled trials and completed multiple literature reviews of the evidence and recommended the use of acupuncture for the following:
- Chronic tension type headaches
We tend to find that acupuncture is used for a variety of other issues including:
- Persistent pain problems
- Neck pain
- Lower back pain
- Joint pain
- Dental pain
- Postoperative pain
However, the literature tells us that it might not be overly effective and that you might not respond to the treatment.
Remember what we’ve said above though – what are the outcomes like at one year follow up? For some it’s better!
OK I’m thinking about trying it. How many sessions would I need?
Often, people don’t get immediate relief. It takes time for acupuncture to take effect – anywhere between 6 and 10 sessions.
When acupuncture is used in combination with other physiotherapy techniques – things like exercise and manual therapy – there tends to be faster improvements in symptoms.
This is part of the reason why I always recommend getting a full assessment by a Physiotherapist in the first instance. There might be a more effective treatment that has a better evidence base, is more cost effective and less time consuming than what initially springs to mind.
I’m worried about the needles. Is acupuncture safe?
In general terms – yes. If the person providing you with the treatment is fully qualified then you should have no problems. If you are being seen by a qualified healthcare professional such as a Physiotherapist then they will have undertaken extra training to ensure that they can safely apply acupuncture. If you are seeing an Acupuncturist ensure you have checked they are registered with your local authority as this is a legal requirement.
Cool! What about side effects?
Some people experience the following after or during a session:
- Pain on needle insertion
- Bleeding or bruising
- Worsening of symptoms
Notice any of these throughout your treatment let your provider know straight away. It might be ok but it’s equally worth checking in case the treatment needs to stop.
There are some instances where we can’t perform acupuncture. If you are taking anti-coagulants, have a bleeding disorder, an allergy to metal, a fear of needles, open wound, infection or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol you will be unable to receive acupuncture treatment. Make sure you’re open and honest with your provider about any of the above as the last thing anyone would want is for you to experience adverse effects.
I’m pregnant. Can I still have acupuncture?
The evidence is out! What we do know is that it’s perfectly safe to administer in your second trimester but some practitioners may not offer acupuncture to you if you are in the late or the early stages of your pregnancy.
If you’re thinking of undertaking a course of acupuncture treatment it is generally recommended that you attend an assessment in the first instance (before undertaking any treatment) to ensure that it is the right treatment choice for you and you don’t waste your money, effort or time on something that isn’t going to get you better.
If you have any questions or any comments I’m keen to hear them! Get in touch using the contact section of the website or find me on social media.
Thanks for reading