Acupuncture is one of the many skills employed within physiotherapy as part of an integrated approach to the management of pain and inflammation. Physiotherapists base their treatments on scientific research and clinical evidence that Acupuncture can reduce pain by stimulating the brain and spinal cord to produce natural pain-relieving chemicals such as endorphins, melatonin (which promotes sleep) and serotonin (to promote well-being). These chemicals assist the body's healing processes and offer pain relief.
Acupuncture forms part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The traditional view is that there are energy meridians running throughout the body. When our bodies are healthy, there is plenty of energy and it flows smoothly. However if we fall ill, the energy flow is disrupted. Energy is referred to as Qi, (pronounced Chee). Needles are inserted into the body within these meridians as a means of restoring the balance and promoting the body's own natural healing properties.
Physiotherapists combine TCM principles with scientific evidence as a means of reducing pain and promoting healing, with the aim of enhancing physiotherapy treatments such as exercise and rehabilitation techniques to promote recovery and improve quality of life.
Trigger point acupuncture
Trigger point acupuncture (sometimes called dry needling) may also be used to facilitate relaxation in specific muscles following traumas, for longer-term unresolved muscle pain, or as a means of increasing muscle length in order to aid stretch and rehabilitation. The needle is inserted into the affected muscle until the tissue is felt to relax under the needle and then removed. Trigger point needling often produces an effect much more quickly.
Following assessment inserted needles can be attached to the electrodes of an electroacupuncture machine. These units are designed to deliver variable amplitudes and frequencies of electrical impulses. Low-frequency electroacupuncture is intended to contribute to the mechanism of pain reduction, especially by stimulating chemicals in the brain that aid analgesia, relaxation and sleep.
Many conditions may be helped by acupuncture. Presently there is evidence to support its use in the treatment of nausea and vomiting, tension-type headache, migraine headache, low back pain and osteoarthritic knee pain. There is inconclusive evidence for its use in other conditions, although patients may feel relaxed and less stressed following treatment.