Acupuncture is used in physiotherapy to help manage pain and inflammation and enhance the rehabilitation process. Acupuncture is believed to aid the body to return to a balanced state of health, by stimulating various points in the body.
It is an old Traditional Chinese Medicine technique that has been used for over 3000 years and has gained popularity in Western society due to its many benefits.
In traditional acupuncture the belief is that there is an energy that flows through the body through channels called meridians. This energy is known as Qi (pronounced as “Chee”). It is believed that when there is an imbalance with ones Qi and it does not flow freely throughout the body, this may cause illness.
Traditional acupuncture is believed to help the Qi flow freely throughout the body and restore health. Whereas in Western medicine acupuncture is explained using Anatomy, physiology, myofascial trigger points and effects on the nervous system
For physiotherapists, in western society,the use of acupuncture is mainly a means to enhance pain modulation. This is done by using thin, sterile needles that are allocated in various pressure points throughout the body and left in for a short period of time (5-30 minutes). This then creates a stimulus to natural pain relieving chemicals, such as endorphins. This allows the body to accelerate the process of pain relief, which can then be assisted with other physio-therapeutic techniques such as manual or exercise therapy.
After a brief assessment of what is causing ones imbalances/pain in the body, the physiotherapist will determine the patient’s acupuncture points and insert the needles to commence stimulation. Acupuncture points are spots on the body where nerves, muscles and connective tissue can be stimulated. By inserting acupuncture needles in these points blood flow is stimulated while simultaneously activating the body’s natural painkillers.
What Can Acupuncture Treat?
Acupuncture can be used to treat many different diseases, disorders and pain conditions, such as:
- Migraines/tension headaches
- Stress relief
- Chronic pain
- Joint pain
- Postoperative pain
- Trigger point relief
How Does Medical Acupuncture Work?
- Local effects: stimulations of the local nerves produce an action potential that spreads locally. This causes vasodilation and an increase in blood flow. This can be observed as a reddening around the area where the needle has been inserted.
- Segmental analgesia: Acupuncture can stimulate nerves that allow the pain signals to be blocked. This is achieved by stimulating nerves in the same segment as the origin of pain.
- Extrasegmental analgesia: acupuncture can have a generalised analgesic effect on the body. This is achieved by stimulating the body to release endorphins.
- Central regulatory effects: studies show that acupuncture can have an effect on the limbic system, on hormonal release and on the autonomic nervous system. For example, it is common for patients to report side effects such as feeling relaxed, better sleeping patterns and being in a more positive frame of mind.
Overall, acupuncture is a safe and effective method of treatment used in combination with other treatments in the field of Physiotherapy.