Acupuncture is a treatment technique used within physiotherapy as part of the management of pain and inflammation.
What is acupuncture?
Use of acupuncture is based on scientific research and clinical evidence that it can reduce pain by stimulating the brain and spinal cord to produce natural pain-relieving chemicals. These include endorphins, melatonin (which promotes sleep) and serotonin (which promotes well-being). These chemicals assist the body’s natural healing processes and offer pain relief in order to aid recovery from injury or other conditions.
Is it effective?
Several hundred studies have looked at the outcomes of acupuncture on a variety of diseases and conditions. Some of these studies have suggested that acupuncture works better than a placebo for treating certain symptoms.
There is good scientific evidence for the effectiveness of the treatment in relieving:
- joint pain (e.g. from osteoarthritis)
- nausea and vomiting following surgery
- tension-type headaches or migraines
- lower back pain
- trigger points
How is it performed?
Acupuncture involves the use of single-use, pre-sterilised disposable needles of varying widths, lengths and materials that pierce the skin at the chosen acupuncture point. The physiotherapist will determine the locations of these points on the basis of a physical assessment of the cause of the symptoms. A number of needles may be used during each treatment, and these are typically left in position for between 20 and 30 minutes before being removed.
Trigger point acupuncture may also be used to promote relaxation in specific muscles following traumas, for longer-term unresolved muscle pain or as a means of aiding rehabilitation. Trigger point needling often produces an effect much more quickly, and therefore, does not require the 20-30 minute treatment time.
Is it safe?
When conducted by a qualified practitioner, it is completely safe. Serious complications from treatment are extremely rare. They usually occur only as a result of bad practice, carried out by an practitioner who has not been properly trained.