Many patients don’t consider acupuncture as they find it all a little bit mysterious, are unfamiliar with the benefits or have mixed feelings about being treated with needles!
As I’ll explain in this article, acupuncture treatment is great for helping with stress and can enhance the benefits of physical therapy treatment, assisting with pain relief and muscle relaxation. Many patients want to know more so here’s a quick overview…
Patients ask me about the evidence that supports the practice of Acupuncture. Three years ago the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (or NICE for short) recommended that the NHS make Acupuncture available for patients with lower back pain, as result of the many positive research studies showing the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment.
There are two main types of acupuncture; there is the traditional Chinese version of acupuncture – this is based on the philosophy of balancing the body’s energy. Whilst it is a good approach, at the Lloyd’s Wellbeing Centre we use a western form of acupuncture treatment sometimes called medical acupuncture, because it is more suitable for treating muscle and joint pain. With medical acupuncture we focus on the area that is causing pain and discomfort. It’s especially good for treating conditions such as shoulder and neck pain, tennis elbow, arthritis in the hands and fingers, lower back pain, knee pain and conditions such as Achilles tendinitis.
Acupuncture effectively re-sets the nerves that control your muscles. Here is an example of how I might utilise acupuncture for a patient who has knots of tense muscle in their shoulders. I would place an acupuncture needle into the knotted muscle. As the needle is so fine, almost like a human hair, it doesn’t cause the pain that you might feel when you have an injection. It may cause some slight temporary discomfort where you have a tight muscle but this wears off after a few seconds.
Once in the muscles, the needle starts to stimulate all the very small nerves that supply the muscle. These nerves send messages up to the brain and the brain then sends signals back down into these nerves which then cause the muscle to relax and the ‘knot’ to release. Sometimes if there is a strong reaction in the muscle, you may see it moving or twitching a little and this is normal, a good sign even, as it means that the messages to ‘re-set’ are getting through.
All acupuncturists follow strict health and safety procedures in the use of needles. The needles are only used one time and never re-used. A full medical history will be taken prior to administering treatment as there are a few patients where it is contraindicated for them to have acupuncture, such as people who are on medication to thin their blood.
I am often asked how long the treatment is and how many sessions are required. This depends on your condition and the severity of it, but needles may be left in for anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes – but in most cases I use them to treat an area for around 5 to 10 minutes. The number of treatments can vary, but normally my patients feel some changes after the first treatment. To make sure that the improvements stay with you we would normally recommend a course of up to 6 sessions, but this would be discussed with you at your first consultation and assessment.
Many of my patients are amazed at the feeling of relaxation that they get after the treatment and these were often patients who were initially sceptical about acupuncture treatment. If you are interested in trying acupuncture treatment or have questions about it then contact us at the Lloyd’s Wellbeing Centre.