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Increasingly, acupuncture is becoming more widely used and accepted throughout the medical community. Many physiotherapists offer acupuncture as a treatment modality in conjunction with traditional physiotherapy management. Physiotherapists who practice acupuncture go through Postgraduate training of one to two years duration in order to become qualified acupuncturists.
Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into specific points located throughout the body to help relieve pain or have other therapeutic benefits. Acupuncture originated in China some 5000 years ago, one belief is that soldiers that were wounded in battle experienced pain relief in other areas of their body, this led to experimenting with arrows, sharp rocks, and later needles.
The traditional Chinese belief of health is based on a balance of yin and yang throughout the body. The ancient Chinese people use to pay their doctors to keep them well, rather than fix them once they became ill. The Chinese believe energy flows through the body between the organs along channels called meridians. Acupuncture points are located within these meridians.
Acupuncture has a variety of uses in clinical physiotherapy practice and complements traditional physiotherapy techniques. Conditions commonly treated are osteoarthritis, muscle spasm, headaches, low back and joint sprains.
There are many modern theories as to why acupuncture works and there has been much scientific research carried out to help prove these theories. The 'gate control' theory involves acupuncture stimulating large, touch sensitive nerve fibres located throughout the skin and connective tissue, these override and can block the transmission of the smaller, pain nerve fibres at the level of the spinal cord, helping to reduce the sensation of pain.
The neuro-endocrine theory works on the fact that the acupuncture points are located close to the nerve endings. When stimulated, these release certain neuro-transmitters such as endorphin, a natural pain killer, that resembles opiates (ie Morphine). These neurotransmitters are similar to the ones released when we exercise and can have an effect on reducing the transmission of pain messages to the brain.
What can you expect from an acupuncture treatment? Pain relief may be immediate or develop over a few hours or days. Acupuncture often has a cumulative effect, with the pain relieving affects, building up over a series of treatments. There are some side-effects, mostly they are rare, but can include; lightheadedness, tiredness, dizziness, slight bruising or muscle aching after treatment.
Your physiotherapist will discuss these with you before treatment.
A number of disposable needles (3-5cm) may be used in each treatment, with treatment time usually lasting between 15-20 minutes. The needles used are extremely fine and usually cause little or no discomfort.