Author: Stephanie Biddell, Chipperfield Practitioner
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the many modalities used within rehabilitation to help manage pain, inflammation whilst stimulating the boy’s own healing chemicals to enhance recovery, mood, and energy. It stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which dates back as early as 1000BC and uses appropriate stimulus to incorporate a holistic approach to treatment by acknowledging the body’s ability to return to a balanced state of health. The human body comprises of a variety of forces that requires balance to achieve health and fitness; the force of YIN (negative) and YANG (positive).
In North America, acupuncture is often a consideration when western medicine has failed. Western Acupuncture is similar to the practice of TCM by following meridians- which are passageways that connect energy flow throughout the body. The practice of western acupuncture holds an abundance of evidence-based practice dissecting the anatomy and neurophysiology systems. The aim is to promote healing by stimulating the nervous system at the local, spinal and brain stem level. By inserting the foreign body into the muscle belly, this will create a natural immune response by enhancing red blood cells, opioids, and endorphins to the affected area. More recent studies say that acupuncture produces pain-relieving chemicals such as melatonin and serotonin to influence sleep and well-being. Through acupuncture, the main objective is to restore homeostasis of the body’s systems. With a thorough assessment, the acupuncturist is able to find the imbalances and therefore address the correct acupuncture points to facilitate the body’s return to a well-balanced physical and mental state.
How does it work?
Acupuncture points are selected according to client presentation including symptoms, history, pulses, colour of tongue and face. Once this information is obtained a diagnosis is made and appropriate treatment is given. The acupuncture needle aims to stimulate the flow of QI (pronounced ‘chee’), which circulates in meridians throughout the body. The QI tends to circulate within the deep organs of the body, but it connects to the superficial skin. Stimulation of specific acupuncture points can influence both superficial energy and deeper energy. In a normal healthy body, a balance is present between these systems. If one experiences emotional trauma, injury, disease or infection, the body’s natural balance of QI within the meridians and organs may be disrupted. This may result in the slowing or stagnation of QI; resulting in pain and inflammation, or a deficit of QI; which may lead to weakness, exhaustion or debilitation. Thus, acupuncture points may reduce excess or increase QI to the specific skin area or organ to help restore optimal balance!
A few treatable conditions backed by evidence AKA Why we LOVE Acupuncture:
> Research has shown beneficial effects with tension headaches. This is due to the stimulation on the nerves that are in the muscle and surrounding tissue which leads to endorphins being released. This changes how the brain and spinal cord process pain.
> Acupuncture has shown promising results to support migraines compared to no treatment/basic care and appears to be at least as effective as preventative drug therapy
>The World Health Organization report that nonspecific lower back pain is estimated in 60-70% of industrialized countries. With such a prevalent condition emerging much research has been done on this topic. Studies have shown that acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment and at least as good as (if not better than) standard medical care for back pain.
> Acupuncture has been shown to reduce levels of severity in one’s mood which may include anxiety, depression, or stress. Acupuncture acts on the areas of the brain that aims to reduce the sensitivity to pain and stress. In addition, it promotes relaxation and aims to deactivate the ‘analytical’ brain- the part of the brain responsible for anxiety and worry.
> The Osteoarthritis Research Society International recommends acupuncture as a method of treatment for osteoarthritis.
What are the different types of acupuncture?
Conventional: This method requires a single-use pre-sterilized needle that comes in a variety of widths and lengths which then pierce the skin. The acupuncturist will find the appropriate points which may require a number of needles. Typically, individuals are left in a position for 20-30 minutes.
Trigger Point: This method is used primarily to facilitate the relaxation of specific muscles following traumas or chronic muscle pain. The aim is to increase muscle length to assist with relaxation and muscle stretch. The method requires the needle to be inserted into the affected muscle until the muscle is felt to relax and then the needle is removed. This method is typically quicker than the conventional method.
Acupressure: The acupuncturist will use their hands to activate acupuncture or trigger points to ask in the release of muscle tightness or the stimulation of QI flow to balance the body. The acupuncturist will apply pressure to specific acupuncture points and the pressure varies on the presenting condition.
Electro-acupuncture: This is when the needle is attached to an electrode of an electro-acupuncture apparatus. The amplitudes and frequencies of electrical impulses can alter depending on the demand. It is believed that low-frequency electro-acupuncture is linked to assist pain reduction- by stimulating brain areas that are responsible to aid analgesia, sleep and relaxation. An abundance amount of research believes that individuals may benefit if chronic pain is a complaint.
Main Takeaway Points!
- Acupuncture is an alternative form of medicine incorporating Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western research to help restore the body’s equilibrium and alleviate pain, inflammation and disease.
- Can be used to help with receding muscle spasms and joint stiffness, reducing stress and promoting the release of endorphins
- Research has shown beneficial results to support those with tension headaches, migraines, lower back pain, osteoarthritis, and mood!
- Acupuncture can be used in many different forms including conventional, trigger point, acupressure or electro-acupuncture methods!
It assists the body’s healing process and offers pain relief as a precursor for other manual or exercise therapy.
Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists of United Kingdom. What is acupuncture? https://www.aacp.org.uk/page/14/what-is-acupuncture
The Physiotherapy Acupuncture Association of New Zealand. What is Acupuncture. Available from http://www.paanz.org.nz/mainmenu54/page70/What+is+Acupuncture+-+PAANZ.html