Acupuncture stimulates the body to produce endorphins and oxytocin, its own pain- and stress- relieving chemicals. It promotes sleep by stimulating the release of melatonin in the body and encourages a sense of well-being by stimulating the release of serotonin. Acupuncture also stimulates nerve fibres to block out pain signals and helps to reduce the sensitivity of tender points in the body.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine stainless steel needles into the skin. It has been used in China for over 2,000 years and increasingly in Western medicine since the 1970s. Acupuncture may be used to treat a wide range of common health problems and to reduce pain. For example, NICE Guidelines (2009) and SIGN Guidelines (Scotland, 2013) recommend a course of ten sessions of acupuncture for persistent, non-specific low back pain.
In September 2012, NICE recognised acupuncture’s benefits for migraines and tension-type headaches too. Acupuncture can be combined with other physiotherapy treatments such as exercise, manual therapy and relaxation techniques. It can also be used when other more conventional treatments have failed.
There are certain health conditions that may stop you receiving acupuncture or mean that the treatment should be used with caution. It is important to let your physiotherapist know:
• If you have ever experienced a fit, seizure, faint or if you have epilepsy;
• If you have a pacemaker or any other electrical implant;
• If you have a bleeding disorder e.g. haemophilia;
• If you are taking anti-coagulants or any other medication;
• If you have damage to heart valves, or have any risk of active infections;
• If you are pregnant or trying to conceive;
• If you have a known metal allergy – specifically to stainless steel;
• If you have a needle phobia;
• If you have a known infection or poor skin condition in the area to be treated;
• If you have a deficient or weakened immune system;
• If you have diabetes;
• If you have low blood pressure;
• If you have been prescribed any medicine;
• If you have cold/flu symptoms or feel generally unwell.