Acupuncture stimulates the body to produce endorphins and oxytocin, its own pain and stress relieving chemicals. It promotes sleep by stimulating the release of melatonin in the body and encourages a sense of well-being by stimulating the release of serotonin. Acupuncture also stimulates nerve fibres to block out pain signals and helps to reduce the sensitivity of tender points in the body. (AACP 2017)
Acupuncture can be used to help provide pain relief and tissue repair. Stress and anxiety are common when people have pain. One of the effects of acupuncture is also the generation of a feeling of calmness, therefore with this and helping to reduce your pain this can be a great treatment to improve your wellbeing and ability to manage a condition.
Electroacupuncture, where gentle stimulation is applied through the needles can also be a great way to enhance the effects of acupuncture.
Acupuncture is used to restore balance in the body
Acupuncture allows you to feel better so you can participate in a rehabilitation programme
What health conditions can acupuncture help to manage?
There are many health conditions that can benefit from using acupuncture as part of a treatment package. These can include:
Joint and muscle pain. This may be acute pain (pain caused from a recent injury) or chronic pain (pain that you have had for a longer time). Conditions such as: osteoarthritis, muscle strain or tension, overuse injuries, back pain.
Stress and anxiety
Women's Health - pregnancy related pelvic girdle pain, pelvic pain, menopausal symptoms
Acupuncture is sometimes referred to as alternative or complimentary medicine. Clients who want to explore acupuncture as a treatment have many different reasons for doing so. Sometimes other approaches have been tried such as painkillers or surgery and that person is not entirely happy with the result. Clients may be wanting to reduce their dependence on medications, or perhaps they are not able to take medications or undergo procedures that would usually be a treatment of choice. Acupuncture has the benefit that it has few side effects, so if you are looking for a more natural and restorative treatment to give a better balance to your body then give it a go.
Frequently asked questions
What will happen during my appointment?
A full medical history will be taken at the start of the session and questions about your current health so a full understanding of your condition can be understood. An assessment of how any movement is being restricted will also be evaluated.
You will be asked to complete a consent form to continue with acupuncture treatment.
Up to about 10 needles are inserted during the session. The number will vary based upon the condition and your symptoms. The needles are then left in place for up to 30 minutes. You will be asked questions about any sensation that you feel around the site of the needle, and the needle may be rotated slightly to stimulate the area and improve the treatment effectiveness.
It is not common that acupuncture would be the only aspect of your treatment programme. It is likely that you will also be provided with advice and physiotherapy exercises to supplement your programme.
How many sessions will I need?
The overall number of sessions will depend on how you respond to acupuncture, the condition being treated and the severity of your condition. Your first initial appointment will last 50 minutes, as this allows for the assessments and questioning around your health condition to be completed. This will also include a short acupuncture trial treatment session. This allows you to feel what the treatment is like before you commit to any further sessions, and allows us to to see how your body reacts to having acupuncture. Follow up sessions then last 30 minutes.
Most people have between 4-6 sessions. After three or four treatments it is usually clear if you are responding well to the treatment and will get a benefit of continuing with further treatments.
How long will it be until I see an improvement in my condition?
Each person responds at different rates; some people notice an immediate improvement in their condition, for others it may take a few sessions to see a more gradual result. Some people notice that they have a flare of their symptoms for 24 hours immediately after the treatment, and then see an improvement.
Although acupuncture can help to reduce pain, especially when other more conventional treatments have failed, it does not work for everyone.
How should I prepare for the session?
It is recommended that you have something to eat 1-2 hours before your treatment as this will reduce the risk of you feeling faint during the session. Wear clothes that will allow the therapist to needle the symptomatic area.
How do you select the acupuncture points to use?
Recognised points that are mapped along meridians or channels of the body are chosen. Points may be close to the site of your symptoms or further away. If your symptoms include muscle spasm, then acupuncture can be used to help the muscle relax and lengthen.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture should not be painful, and it is nothing like having an injection. The sterilised needles that are used are really fine, so for many of the points used people often don't feel them at all. Sometimes people can feel a temporary sharp pricking sensation when the needle is inserted, but this does not persist for the whole treatment. The treatment is time for you to relax and feel positive about the steps you are taking to improve your symptoms.
Can anyone have acupuncture?
There are some conditions that may mean you are not suitable for the treatment, or that the treatment should be used with caution. That is why the health screening prior to starting any treatment is so important. In particular the following health conditions would need discussion around the suitability of acupuncture as a treatment:
if you have experienced a fit, seizure, faint or have epilepsy
if you have a pacemaker or any other electrical implant
if you have a bleeding disorder e.g. haemophilia
if you are taking anti-coagulants
if you have heart valve problems
if you have any risk of active infections
if you are pregnant or trying to conceive
if you have a known metal allergy
if you have a needle phobia
if you have an infection or poor skin condition in the area to be treated
have a deficient or weakened immune system
if you have diabetes
if you have low blood pressure