Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the latest treatment to come to Relax Therapies.  Here’s the low down on what it is, how it works and what it can help with.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture involves the insertion of tiny needles into points on the body known as acupuncture points.  Acupuncture points are located along channels known as meridians. 

Model showing acupuncure meridians
Model of acupuncure meridians

The needles are left in place for about 20-30 minutes. They stimulate the nervous system to produce pain relieving chemicals to relieve pain. How deep the needles go in depends on the area being treated. – For example a muscular area like the leg will have needles going in more deeply than around the neck. You won’t be aware of how deeply the needle goes in though as they are so fine it’s almost painless.

What happens in a session?

A typical session will involve a consultation to check you are safe to receive acupuncture (there are very few reasons why you cannot, see below for list of conditions which would be unsafe)

Where the needles are placed depends on the issue. Normally most needles placed around the painful area (for example if it’s knee pain around the knee and leg) but also perhaps a couple in other points away from the painful area. 

Who can have acupuncture?

Acupuncture can help with many things including

  • headaches
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • recovery from injuries
  • stress
  • insomnia

Generally it’s best to have a course of treatments and then gradually reduce the time between sessions until you either stop or have a maintenance session when needed.  We can talk about how many sessions you are likely to need in your first session as everyone is individual. 

What can I use acupuncture for?

Diagram showing the pain cycle

Acupuncture works really well alongside other treatments and helps break the pain cycle so other methods can work better. The pain cycle of chronic pain occurs after an injury – because you are in pain you tend to guard the area to protect it. This leads to stiffness and other muscles try to compensate. Over time the injured area weakens leading to more pain and stiffness and chronic inflammation. By relieving the pain it helps restore normal movement which in turn helps relieve stiffness and reduce weakness and wasting.

Here are some examples of what acupuncture can help with and how.

Back pain

Many people with back pain find they are so uncomfortable they can’t do strengthening work or exercise because the pain is too great.  Acupuncture can help relieve the pain enabling them to start moving properly again and strengthen muscles.

Movement becomes easier, posture improves (you can stand up straight again) and muscles start to come out of spasm.  You sleep better (sleep helps healing), move better and feel much better so you can do your conditioning work so your core gets stronger and protects your back.

Headaches/stress/insomnia

Acupuncture stimulates the release of chemicals in the body called endorphins which make you feel good (ever heard of runner’s high – it’s the same chemical).  If you are stuck feeling stressed, getting a headache, being unable to relax and worrying acupuncture can help break this cycle.

As you start to feel better you can think about some good lifestyle changes like getting more sleep or cutting down on caffeine to prevent the headaches returning.

IS acupuncture safe?

Most people are fine to have acupuncture but there are a few instances where it is not suitable

  • if you are very unwell or have an infection wait until you are better
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • bleeding disorders
  • blood donors – be aware you need to wait 16 weeks after acupuncture before you can donate again unless you have acupuncture in a medical setting such as medical centre or hospital
  • pregnancy – if you are pregnant I would suggest going to see an acupuncturist with specialist training or a midwife that carries out acupuncture
  • immediately after an injury – for example if you have just sprained an ankle best to wait 72 hours for the inflammation and swelling to reduce before having acupuncture

Acupuncture is very safe.  I use only single use, disposable needles and follow a strict hygiene protocol.  Some possible side effects are

  • a bruise where needle is inserted
  • drowsiness – some people even fall asleep! (many people find this quite pleasant as they feel deeply relaxed)
  • feeling faint (reduce the risk of this by getting up slowly and if you faint easily have a small snack just before your appointment)

When the needles are inserted it can feel a bit achy but not painful.  If any of the needles feel painful or sharp let me know and I will remove them straight away.

Acupuncture can be added to any deep tissue massage for £15 or included as part of Sports Therapy sessions where appropriate

If you have any questions please contact me

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