Acupuncture: is it the magic cure?

It happens on almost a daily basis. I mention acupuncture as a treatment option in my physiotherapy clinic, and someone raises an eyebrow sceptically. For those who are new to the intervention, it can seem like an unlikely cure. For most, it at least needs some explaining! 

The first thing to note is it’s not for everyone. There are some medical, personal and religious reasons why the treatment may be contraindicated and these should always be thoroughly checked by the physiotherapist before treatment commences.  

Secondly, not all conditions are appropriate to treat with acupuncture and will respond better to other therapeutic interventions. It is down to the clinical experience of your physiotherapist to advise and guide you towards the optimum treatment.  

If acupuncture is recommended as a treatment option, and there are no contraindications to treatment it’s really worth considering, and here’s why: 

Acupuncture is proven to reduce musculoskeletal and chronic pain. It happens by stimulating the body’s natural pain management system, affecting the neurophysiology which triggers pain messages and receptors and interprets them as pain in the brain. On top of that, it stimulates the body’s own production of opioids (pain killing chemicals), therefore improving the way the body can manage the pain in the long-term (as opposed to pharmaceutical pain killers which actually inhibit the body’s production of opioids, meaning you need more and more of them to manage ongoing pain).  

It is proven to increase circulation to the area of your injury, and with increased blood flow, comes increased healing power.  

It is proven to increase the mobility of tight tissue which can be the cause of restricted movement, poor function and pain. If you can improve the mobility of a muscle or joint, and reduce the pain in that area, it allows you the opportunity to participate in normal movement and exercise which can be the long-term solution to resolving your injury for good. 

There is a large body of evidence which identifies that acupuncture is shown to be superior to ‘usual care’ (eg. Massage, mobilisation, exercise) of low back pain for the first 4 months and have “clinically important” improvements for pain reduction, quality of life, physical function and vitality.  

Response rates to acupuncture treatment have been identified as: 90% for myofascial pain, 70% for other forms of nociceptive pain, 40% for all other pain (Cummings 1996). 

With so much evidence behind it, it is hard to argue with the benefits of acupuncture to assist in physiotherapy management of both acute and chronic pain.  

Before seeking acupuncture treatment it’s worth looking for an AACP trained physiotherapist. It ensures you are receiving the best standard of care and can expect to benefit from both the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach as well as ‘dry needling’ techniques.  

See a video link here of a client’s story of how Acupuncture with a Physiotherapist helped her to manage her Sciatic pain. 

Emma Bradley