Acupuncture has been used for more than 2000 years and is traditionally a Chinese therapy involving the insertion of fine, stainless steel needles into the skin. Its use within western medicine continues to grow alongside an increasing body of scientific evidence to support its use in clinical practice.
Acupuncture can be used to treat a wide range of common health problems and is effective in alleviating pain. It can be used as a stand-alone treatment or as an adjunct to other physio treatments. Here at Pure, our clinicians are trained to decide on the most effective course of treatment for you and most frequently use it alongside other treatment.
Most of our physiotherapists can use acupuncture within the treatment/management plan of numerous conditions and also as an individual course of treatment by itself. All our clinicians using acupuncture are members of the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) which ensures all members using acupuncture have received and maintain the necessary training to be able to use acupuncture effectively and competently.
Locally, acupuncture produces a stimulus and minuscule trauma to the skin and underlying tissue which promotes the body to produce a small amount of positive inflammation. This is the body’s natural healing process which produces and sends chemicals and endorphins to the area to increase the rate of healing.
Acupuncture also stimulates sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles, which leads to the body and brain producing further endorphins and other pain and stress relieving chemicals. It also stimulates nerve fibers which block pain signals in the spinal cord. This in turn reduces pain and tender spots in the body. The release of other chemicals such as melatonin and serotonin can also promote sleep and a sense of wellbeing.
Your physiotherapist will carry out an assessment including your full medical history and any current health problems you may be experiencing. Understanding whether acupuncture is likely to be helpful as other treatment approaches may be more beneficial for you, we will advise the best options. The number of needles used in the first session will vary depending on you, your condition and the symptoms you are experiencing, but any number from 1-10 can be expected and this may increase or change in subsequent sessions.
During your treatment, needles will be inserted into the skin either at the point of pain, away from the pain or a combination of both. They will be left in from a few seconds to up to 30 minutes and then will be carefully removed and disposed of. The needles may be stimulated at times by gently rotating the needles or using electrical impulses which is called electro-acupuncture.
You may only require a few sessions of acupuncture, however, a course of 6 or more treatments may be required in some instances. This will be guided by your condition, your response to treatment and how your present clinically. By the 3rd session, it is usually clear whether the treatment is being effective and if it should be continued.
Responses can be variable and people respond at different rates. It is not unusual for symptoms to flare up for 24 hours after the treatment, but following this, there should be a noticeable improvement in symptoms. Others may feel an immediate relief in symptoms, whereas some people may have more gradual effects and need a few sessions before they notice a marked difference. However, it is important to note that acupuncture does not work for everyone so there will be a small number of people who may experience no benefit.
Acupuncture is not usually painful. The needles used are so thin that sometimes they are not felt at all. However, you may feel a sharp pricking sensation as the needles are inserted. During the treatment itself, the sensation is often quite individual to each person but you might experience a heaviness, a dull ache or discomfort, pins and needles or a feeling of warmth.
The sensation should not feel unpleasant, so please tell your physiotherapist if you have any concerns. You may also feel a little lightheaded or relaxed during or after your treatment and these are quite normal responses. It is advisable to eat within 2 hours of having acupuncture as your blood sugars may temporarily be lowered and therefore eating can reduce the risk of feeling lightheaded or faint.
All needles are sterile and single-use only and are disposed of safely in sharps boxes after their removal. All of our acupuncture trained clinicians are registered with the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) and therefore adhere to strict safety and hygiene guidelines as well as ensuring they all remain competent through continued professional development to remain an AACP member.
Side effects are usually short-lived and are generally mild. They may include mild bruising or bleeding at the needle sites, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea or mild aggravation of symptoms. Some people may sleep well following treatment, and some may even feel euphoric. If you feel tired or drowsy post-treatment it is advisable not to drive or operate machinery.
There are certain conditions where acupuncture can only be used with caution and some conditions where it would not be advisable at all. Please speak to your physiotherapist if you are experiencing health problems you are concerned about or any of the following: