At Living Well Physiotherapy, the Western medical approach to acupuncture is used, usually in conjunction with other physiotherapy treatments, for a variety of health conditions from longstanding problems to acute injuries. As with all the treatments we offer, we are mindful of the whole person and may suggest including acupuncture points to help with other problems such as low mood, stress, hotflushes, nausea and insomnia.
A brief overview of acupuncture
Acupuncture was originally developed in China over 2000 years ago. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), your life force or energy, known as Qi (pronounced ‘Chee’) flows around your body through meridians. When your have a pain or health problem the flow of Qi is affected (there is an imbalance). TCM takes a ‘whole person’ approach, considering both the the mind and body, and acupuncture can be used to help restore the flow of Qi through the affected meridians.
Since the 1990’s acupuncture has been increasingly used in Western medicine, primarily for pain relief. Research has identified many benefits from using acupuncture and is still revealing the various mechanisms through which it works. What is known so far is that it by inserting very fine needles, sensory nerves in skin and muscle are stimulated. The signals which the sensory nerves produce can result in a number or responses including:
Local hormone and chemical release which increases blood flow to the area, reduces pain, relieves muscle spasm (local muscle overactivity), promotes healing after a recent (acute) injury and stimulates the immune system.
Stimulation of the central nervous system produces hormone release including endoprhins, serotonin and melatonin. These chemicals help to reduce pain, can make you feel tired (useful if pain is disturbing your sleep), and influences the emotional centres in the brain (to help cope with your pain and can relieve symptoms asscociated with anxiety, depression and stress).
For some people with longstanding pain (over 3 months) the painful area can become overly sensitive and pain can radiate causing sensitivity away from the original painful site. It is not uncommon for normal movement or gentle pressure to be agonising. This is known as sensitisation of the central nervous system. Acupuncture can be particularly useful to help reduce this sensitisation so that people are able to actively participate in their physiotherapy sessions.