What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a traditional complementary therapy that has its historic origins in China and was devised around 2500 BC. It involves inserting small needles into the skin to stimulate specific parts of the body and its neural network. Acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain, including chronic pain, OA, headaches, and migraine1. Increasingly, it is being used for overall wellness, including stress management.
At herbal osteopathic life acupuncture is used alongside osteopathy and herbal medicine as an integrated approach to the management of pain and inflammation and as a means of stimulating the body’s own healing chemicals in order to aid recovery and enhance rehabilitation.
Western medical acupuncture is derived from traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a great deal of scientific backing. TCM founded the concept of treating specific points along the body where unseen energy pathways could be stimulated with a needle to effect energy (qi) within the body in order to support the body back to optimal health. The body has an innate ability to self-repair and bring itself back to a balance (homeostasis). Acupuncture appears to have a beneficial effect to naturally enhance these self-repair systems and thus improve recovery.
The philosophy of acupuncture in TCM is that acupuncture needles stimulate the flow of energy, known as Qi [pronounced ‘chee’] which circulates in pathways (meridians) within the body. The Qi circulates and connects the deeper tissues and organs of the body with the more superficial layers and the skin. In a healthy body, a balance exists between these different systems, both the superficial and deeper levels. An imbalance or stagnation of the natural energy flow/QI can however negatively affect these systems and cause a host of symptoms and challenges. Acupuncture in this case would free the stagnation and restore the free-flow of energy, reducing pain and inflammation.
Western/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. Acupuncture points are selected 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.