Acupuncture is an integral part of the rapid growth of complementary therapy in the UK. It involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on meridians or trigger points. All needles are sterile, single use only and disposed of immediately after use. Acupuncture stimulates the nerves in skin and muscle, and can produce a variety of effects.
We know that it increases the body’s release of natural painkillers – endorphin and serotonin – in the pain pathways of both the spinal cord and the brain. This modifies the way pain signals are received. However, acupuncture does much more than reduce pain, and has a beneficial effect on health. Patients often notice an improved sense of well-being after treatment.
Acupuncture is effective in a wide range of painful conditions and is commonly used to treat musculo-skeletal pain e.g. back, shoulder, neck and leg pain. It has been used successfully to treat headaches, migraines, trapped nerves, sports injuries, chronic muscle strains and various kinds of rheumatic and arthritic pain.
Which points will be used?
The points stimulated may not be close to the part of the body where the problem is experienced. For example, although you may suffer from headaches, needles may be inserted into your foot or hand. There are around 500 acupuncture points on the body. An experienced acupuncturist will use a selection of perhaps 4-8 of these for each treatment. It is quite usual for different points to be selected as a patient’s condition changes during the course of treatment.
What does it feel like?
When a needle is inserted, the sensation is often described as a tingling or dull ache. Needles may be inserted and immediately removed, or may be left in place for 20 minutes or more, depending on the effect required. During treatment, patients commonly experience a heaviness in the limbs or a pleasant feeling of relaxation. The benefits of acupuncture frequently include more than just relief from a particular condition. Many people find that it can lead to increased energy levels, as well as better appetite and sleep, and an enhanced sense of overall well-being. As a general guide, if you are suffering from pain, acupuncture can help. However results can never be guaranteed and if after 2-3 sessions, the symptoms are unchanged, acupuncture may not be right for you.
Should I tell my doctor?
If you are receiving treatment from your doctor then it is sensible to mention that you are having acupuncture. Let your acupuncturist know about any medication that you are taking and do not stop taking any medication without discussion with your doctor.
How many treatments will I need?
This varies between patients. Most people have a course of treatment and usually notice change after 4-6 sessions. Treatment may be twice a week to begin with and is then at longer intervals as the condition responds.
Are there any side-effects?
Here is a list of side effects that you may, or may not experience:
Momentary discomfort as the needle is inserted
Drowsiness and sleepiness
Temporary worsening of symptoms
Onset of a migraine headache (if you are a sufferer)
Feeling faint (during or after treatment), for this reason it is essential that you eat before treatment.
It is not advised for those with a fear of needles.
An Initial Assessment is required prior to any Acupuncture treatment