What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a therapeutic method used to encourage natural healing, reduce or relieve pain and improve function of affected areas of the body. Acupuncture is safe and effective and is often successfully used as an alternative to medications or even surgery. Relief is often obtained when traditional medical therapy has failed. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles through the skin and tissues at specific points on the body. There is no injection of any substance and the treatment itself causes minimal discomfort.
Although proven successful for hundreds of years without the benefit of modern medical knowledge, it is only in recent years that the scientific and medical communities of Europe And North American have begun to study acupuncture to understand and explain its effectiveness. “Anatomical” acupuncture refers to a more modern approach taken today by the Acupuncture Foundation of Canada Institute (AFCI) and other western trained acupuncture therapists. When combined with knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology, modern therapist can used acupuncture effectively.
Modern technology has allowed variations in acupuncture treatment. Electro-acupuncture involves stimulation of inserted needles with gentle electrical impulses. Rubber electrodes or moistened cotton-tipped applicators an also be used to deliver electrical stimulation to acupuncture points (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or T.E.N.S.). Low power laser may also be used instead of needles to stimulate appropriate points.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture stimulates the body to produce its own pain relieving chemicals called “endorphins”. These chemicals mimic morphine by attaching to opiate receptor sites found throughout the nervous system. Endorphins help to block pathways that relay pain messages from the body to the brain, resulting in relief of pain, general relaxation and biochemical restoration of the body’s own internal regulation systems.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing abilities, reducing inflammation, and promoting physical and emotional well-being.
How is acupuncture used today?
Acupuncture is very effective in treating a variety of painful disorders, both acute and chronic. The World Health Organization has identified the benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medial conditions including neurological and muscular disorders: headaches, neck and back pain, neuralgia, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, tendinitis, sciatica, and arthritis.
Are there any adverse effects or risks to the treatment?
One of the most striking aspects of acupuncture is the almost complete absence of adverse effects and complications from its use. Most patients find that the treatments are relaxing and cause minimal discomfort.
People with pacemakers should avoid electrical stimulation unless approved by their cardiologist. Women in early pregnancy and haemophiliacs should be treated with caution.
The AFCI recommends that only sterile disposable needles be used, preventing any risk of infection. In particular, there is no possibility of transmission of the AIDS or hepatitis viruses when sterile disposable needles are used. Southeast Physiotherapy ONLY uses disposable needles.
Does it hurt?
People experience differing sensations with acupuncture. Most patients feel only minimal discomfort as the needles are inserted, some feel no pain at all. Once the needles are in place, there should be no significant discomfort.
Acupuncture needles are extremely fine and are made from stainless steel. Two or three acupuncture needles would fit inside the barrel of a regular hollow needle used for injections.
How many treatments will be required?
The number of treatments will vary with each individual and the condition being treated. For acute problems, only a few treatments may be required. In some cases, one treatment will be sufficient.
For complex or longstanding conditions, one or two treatments a week for several weeks may be recommended with less frequent treatment as improvement occurs. Treatment sessions usually last between 15 and 30 minutes. Relief may be immediate or occur within a few hours, or after a few days.
In some conditions, several sessions may be required before improvement is noticed.
Eighty to ninety percent of patients respond well to acupuncture with noticeable improvement.
Acupuncture can be used as the only form of therapy or it may be combined successfully with other forms of medical or physical therapy.
Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
A positive attitude towards wellness may reinforce the effects of any type of treatment. A neutral or negative attitude (“I don’t know if I really believe in this”) will not block the effects of acupuncture.
Is there any special advice to follow before an acupuncture treatment?
Acupuncture treatment can be done at any time. Patients are advised not to eat unusually large meals before or after treatments. It is best to avoid alcohol or sedatives for four hours prior to treatment. Pain medications may be taken as required.
What about after treatment?
If possible, a short rest after treatment is desirable, but not essential. Some patients feel unusually relaxed and prefer to plan activities accordingly. Strong exercise is not recommended immediately after treatment.
For painful conditions, avoid strenuous activity for 48 hours after treatment. Alcohol, and ideally caffeine and cigarettes, should be avoided for at least two hours. Medication, as directed by your physician, may be taken as required.
Link to AFCI website: HERE