What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into the skin to treat a wide range of common health problems and to reduce pain. In September 2012, NICE recognised acupuncture’s benefits for migraines and tension-type headaches too. Acupuncture can be combined with other physiotherapy treatments such as exercise, manual therapy and relaxation techniques and can be used when other more conventional treatments have failed.

Conventional Acupuncture involves the employment of single use, pre-sterilised, disposable needles of varying widths, lengths and materials that pierce the skin at the Acupuncture points. Your PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist will determine the locations of the Acupuncture points, based upon the assessment. 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. Trigger point needling is often much quicker and therefore does not require the 20-30 minute treatment time.


How does Acupuncture work?

The body has the ability to “self-repair; scientific research and clinical evidence have shown that Acupuncture stimulates the brain and spinal cord to produce endorphins and oxytocin, its own pain and stress relieving chemicals. It promotes sleep by stimulating the release of melatonin in the body and encourages a sense of well-being by stimulating the release of serotonin, thereby enhancing the repair mechanism and enabling an improved recovery time. Acupuncture also stimulates nerve fibres to block out pain signals and helps to reduce the sensitivity of tender points in the body.

Acupuncture is one of the many skills employed by PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapists as part of an integrated approach to the management of pain and inflammation as a precursor to other treatments such as exercise, manual therapy, muscle strengthening and rehabilitation to achieve more effective results to aid recovery to stimulate the body’s own healing chemicals.

Acupuncture is also used by PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapists to address some systemic and longer term illnesses, but always with the aim of enhancing physiotherapy treatment and improving the quality of life and facilitate the body’s return to a state of health both physically and mentally.


What is the history of Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a branch of traditional medicine that has been practised in China and the Far East for over 2,000 years and increasingly in Western medicine since the 1970s. It has been developed, tested, researched and refined to give a detailed understanding of the body's energetic balance. Without the benefit of modern scientific equipment, the first acupuncturists discovered many now familiar aspects of biomedical science, such as the impact of emotional stress on the body.


Is Acupuncture Safe?

  • Acupuncture is a very safe procedure when carried out by fully qualified professionals. Your PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist is qualified to deliver this therapy and has undergone a recognised accredited training course in acupuncture. This is in addition to their three year study as a Physiotherapist and at least three years clinical practice.

  • The needles used by your PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist are sterile and disposed of after one use.

  • Acupuncture is safe when practised by a PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist because of the strict hygiene guidelines that must be adhered to, and the training courses and educational updates that are required in order to maintain membership.

  • Acupuncture needles are the same width as human hair, are much smaller than an injection needle, so having acupuncture does not feel the same as having an injection.

  • The needles are disposable, pre-sterilised and individually packaged. These are often supplied in guide-tubes for easy insertion which means that there is no risk of anything touching the needle during the process. When needles are inserted, you may feel a temporary, sharp pricking sensation.

What are the benefits of Acupuncture?

A growing body of evidence-based clinical research is discovering how the body responds to acupuncture and its benefits for a wide range of common health conditions. A lot of people have acupuncture to relieve specific aches and pains, or for common health problems like an overactive bladder. Other people choose acupuncture when they can feel their bodily functions are out of balance, but they have no obvious diagnosis. And many have regular treatments because they find it so beneficial and relaxing.


What happens when I see my PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist for Acupuncture?

  • It is a good idea to make sure you have something to eat 1-2 hours before your treatment. This will help reduce the risk of you feeling faint during your session by keeping your sugar levels up.

  • When you first see your PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist, he or she will take your full medical history and ask you about your current health problems. You may be asked to complete a ‘consent to treatment’ form.

  • Between 1 to 10 needles may be used at a time at an acupuncture session. The number of needles used will vary according to your condition and symptoms.

  • The needles are inserted through the skin either at the sites where you feel pain, away from the pain or a combination of both. The needles are usually left in for a few minutes up to 30 minutes. During the treatment, your PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist may stimulate the needles by gently rotating them. This is done to increase the treatment’s effectiveness.

  • The needles are removed at the end of the session. You will then be asked to rest for a few minutes before you leave.

How many sessions will I have?

The overall number of treatment sessions required will depend on you, your condition and your PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist’s assessment. Most patients receive a course of 4-6 treatments although just one or two treatments may be enough. Sometimes 1 or 2 ‘top up’ treatments are required. Treatments are normally given at 1-2 weekly intervals. It is generally clear after a few sessions whether or not acupuncture will benefit you and if the treatment should be continued.


Can anyone have acupuncture?

There are certain health conditions that may stop you receiving acupuncture or mean that the treatment should be used with caution. It is important to let your PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist know:

  •    If you have ever experienced a fit, seizure, faint or if you have epilepsy;

  •    If you have a pacemaker or any other electrical implant;

  •    If you have a bleeding disorder e.g. haemophilia;

  •    If you are taking anti-coagulants or any other medication;

  •    If you have damage to heart valves, or have any risk of active infections;

  •    If you are pregnant or trying to conceive;

  •    If you have a known metal allergy – specifically to stainless steel;

  •    If you have a needle phobia;

  •    If you have a known infection or poor skin condition in the area to be treated;

  •    If you have a deficient or weakened immune system;

  •    If you have diabetes;

  •    If you have low blood pressure;

  •    If you have been prescribed any medicine;

  •    If you have cold/flu symptoms or feel generally unwell.

How long until I see an improvement in my condition?

The effects of acupuncture treatments are cumulative: different people respond in diverse ways and at varying rates. Some people may feel an immediate relief of their symptoms whilst others may only see a gradual improvement after a few treatments. Some people may find that their condition/symptoms flare up for up to 24 hours after the treatment but then see a marked improvement.

Although acupuncture can help reduce pain, particularly when other more conventional treatments have failed, it does not work for everyone.


Are There any Side Effects to Acupuncture?

Any side effects tend to be mild and short-lived. They may include: fatigue, light headedness, bruising, localised bleeding or soreness or redness or mottling of the skin around the needle sites. If you continue to feel tired after a treatment, it is recommended that you do not drive or operate machinery.

If you have or are concerned about any possible side effects, please speak to your PAM Wellbeing Physiotherapist.