Acupuncture, is it as good as they say it is?
Back in 2009, after having numerous spinal surgeries and also being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia I was at a stage where no matter what gambit of drugs I was taking I was still in a lot of pain.
I was already having regular aromatherapy massage on my back which I found amazing, but the relief was short-lived, so I decided to go down the complementary therapy route and try something new.
Also, at that time, Acupuncture was available at my NHS pain clinic, so I was able to go for regular sessions which were to mainly treat my neck and arm pains. I found these to be beneficial and could notice a difference by the end of each session but as my treatments were only one session every two weeks, I soon found that my pain was back before my next session.
Acupuncture works by stimulating your own body’s healing mechanisms to help with pain and recovery. The concept has been part of traditional Chinese medicine since 1000BC where it was written in scripts on the holistic concept on how it can help heal the body.
Without balance in our bodies, there are many health-related problems we can encounter and having an Acupuncture treatment can help to restore your body systems to the right balance. They are quite often referred to as Yin (which is negative) and Yang (which is positive).
The Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapist’s explains how Acupuncture works. The acupuncture needle will stimulate the flow of QI [pronounced ‘chee’], which circulates in channels or meridians within the body. The QI circulates within the deeper organs of the body but connects to the superficial skin. In the state of a normal healthy body, a balance exists between these systems. Both the superficial energy and the deeper energy can be influenced by the stimulation of specific acupuncture points. If injury, disease, emotional trauma or infection occurs, the natural flow of QI within the meridians and organs may well be affected and the result is an altered flow, either a slowing or stagnation of QI causing pain and inflammation, or a deficit of QI, which may cause weakness, exhaustion and longer debilitating disease. The stimulation of relevant acupuncture points may free stagnation, reduce excess or indeed, increase QI to the specific area or organ and thus help to restore normal QI flow and balance.
There are several techniques in applying Acupuncture by Acupressure or Electro-Acupuncture which enhances the repair mechanism and enables an improved recovery time.
The conventional Acupuncture involves the use of single-use, pre-sterilised, disposable needles of varying widths, lengths and materials that pierce the skin at the Acupuncture points. The Physiotherapist will determine the locations of the Acupuncture points, based upon the assessment of the cause of the imbalance. A number of needles may be used at each treatment and these are typically left in position for some 20-30 minutes before being removed.
Trigger point Acupuncture may also be used to facilitate relaxation in specific muscles following trauma such as whiplash injury; for longer-term unresolving muscle pain such as repetitive strain injury (RSI) or as a means to obtain increased muscle length in order to aid stretch and rehabilitation such as sports injuries. Here the needle is placed into the affected muscle until it is felt to relax under the needle and then removed. Trigger point needling is often much quicker and therefore does not require the 20-30-minute treatment time.
Acupressure uses the Physiotherapist’s hands over Acupuncture or trigger points in order to relieve muscle tightness or to stimulate QI flow and balance the body. It is a healing art that uses the fingers of the Physiotherapist on the key Acupuncture points. The amount of pressure used varies according to the condition and requires trained sensitive hands. It is often used with sensitive patients, patients with a needle phobia, children or frail patients.
I do personally believe that Acupuncture and Acupressure can help heal and therefore relieve some pain but what I do not seem to have been able to achieve with this treatment is momentum.
Should it be used weekly, fortnightly, less or more? Is it something you could use to treat yourself? With alternative therapies being preferred by many sufferers for pain relief it’s a case of working out the correct balance of treatments that you need. Unfortunately, my local NHS Pain Clinic no longer offers this form of pain relief which then also means funding it yourself which for some people I am sure is out of the question due to the cost.