What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the many skills used within our physiotherapy as an integrated approach to the management of pain and injury. It works as a means of stimulating the body’s own healing chemicals in order to aid recovery and rehabilitation.
The concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM] is an ancient system of as far back as 1000BC. Acupuncture as part of TCM is founded on the holistic concept of treatment and that body is able to return to its balanced state of health (homeostasis), given the correct stimulus to do so.
This is achieved by a proper physiotherapy assessment to determine the source of the imbalance and the correct acupuncture points required to address this imbalance and facilitate the body’s return to a state of health both physically and mentally.
The body has the ability to self-repair; the use of Acupuncture, Acupressure or Electro-Acupuncture enhances the repair mechanism and enables an improved recovery time. Then other physiotherapy treatments such as exercise, muscle strengthening and rehabilitation would have more effective results.
The acupuncture needle will stimulate the flow of QI [pronounced ‘chee’], which circulates in channels or meridians within the body. The QI circulates within the deeper organs of the body but connects to the superficial skin. In the state of a normal healthy body, a balance exists between these systems. In injury, disease, emotional trauma or infection, the natural flow of QI within the meridians and organs may well be affected and the result is either a slowing or stagnation of QI causing pain and inflammation, or a deficit of QI, which may cause weakness, exhaustion and longer debilitating disease. The stimulation of relevant acupuncture points may free stagnation, reduce excess or indeed, increase QI to the specific area or organ and thus help to restore normal QI flow and balance.
Acupuncture is used by Physiotherapists, to enhance pain modulation via the stimulation of the brain and spinal cord to produce ‘NATURAL pain-relieving chemicals’, such as endorphins; melatonin to promote sleep, serotonin to promote well being, to name but a few. These assist the body’s healing process and offer pain relief as a precursor for other manual or exercise therapy. It is also used for Face rejuvenation and detoxing the face and body.
Conventional Acupuncture involves the use of single-use, pre-sterilised, disposable needles that pierce the skin at the Acupuncture points. The Physiotherapist will determine the locations of the Acupuncture points, based upon the assessment of the cause of the imbalance. A number of needles may be used at each treatment and these are typically left in position for some 20-30 minutes before being removed.
Trigger point Acupuncture may also be used to help relaxation in muscle spasm, following trauma such as whiplash injury, long term unresolved muscle pain caused by different reasons, or to increase muscle length in order to aid stretch in rehabilitation such as sports injuries. Here the needle is placed into the affected muscle until it is felt to relax under the needle and then removed. Trigger point needling is often much quicker and therefore does not require the 20-30 minute treatment time.
Other traditional treatments include:
Acupressure uses the Physiotherapist’s hands over Acupuncture or trigger points in order to relieve muscle tightness or to stimulate QI flow and balance the body. It is a healing art that uses the fingers of the Physiotherapist on the key Acupuncture points. The amount of pressure used varies according to the condition and requires trained, and sensitive hands. It can also be used with hypersensitive patients, patients with a needle phobia, children or frail patients.
Cupping is a technique used to introduce warmth into the Acupuncture points, to areas which require increased stimulation of QI flow. It helps in increasing the circulation, removing waste products or toxins, reducing muscle spasm and pain. They may also be used before stretching the damaged tissue or mobilising a joint. Conditions treated with the techniques include Osteo-Arthritis, areas of poor QI flow such as muscle spasm, tissue tightness, poor blood circulation( certain categories) or cold conditions.
Acupuncture needles Inserted in the points can be coupled to the electrodes of an electro-acupuncture machine. Low-frequency electro-acupuncture is intended to enhance the effects of needling and contribute to the mechanism of pain reduction, especially stimulating chemicals from the brain which will help pain relief, relaxation and sleep.
It is particularly useful in the more chronic pain problems and there is a good body of research to support its use. Our Physiotherapist may use TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve Stimulation) or Micro-current Bioenergy Stimulation machines over specific acupuncture points in order to help this mechanism and enhance the pain modulation.