What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves the use of sterile, single use, fine needles that are inserted into specific points of the body. It originated thousands of years ago as a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is theorized that injury to the body disrupts the flow of energy (known as chi) in the body. Inserting acupuncture needles into specific areas of the body will restore the balance of the energy flow.
Western medicine has conducted numerous studies in an attempt to understand the effects of acupuncture. It is widely accepted that these specific acupuncture points stimulate the nervous system, muscles and connective tissues, which can have a local effect as well as a global, full body effect.
Over the years, acupuncture has continued to gain recognition as a modality for pain relief. In the mid 1900’s, the concept of dry needling (DN) was developed as a way to treat myofascial trigger points (MTrP). MTrP are defined as hyperirritable, taut bands within a muscle that produces pain with movement and/or pressure. MTrP are formed due to an excessive acetylcholine (neurotransmitter) release from the motor endplate, leading to continuous muscle contractions. This then leads to hypoxia (decrease blood flow and oxygen) within the trigger point, and a decrease in local pH (trigger point becomes more acidic). This results in sensitization of the nervous system.
When an acupuncture needle is inserted into the MTrP, it elicits the following physiological effects:
- Local twitch response (LTR): A LTR is an involuntary spinal reflex that causes the muscle being needled to contract. This has shown to reduce motor endplate activity and decrease acetylcholine release, thereby decreasing muscle contractions.
- Increase blood flow and oxygen: Stimulation of the MTrP via DN results in vasodilation of the blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow and oxygen to the muscle.
- Pain relief: A-beta and A-delta nerve fibres are stimulated with DN and send signals along the dorsolateral tracts of the spinal cord to activate the descending pain inhibitory systems.
Is Acupuncture safe?
To become certified in performing acupuncture and dry needling, numerous hours of training are involved as well as undergoing an extensive examination process. Certified practitioners are highly skilled to perform this controlled act in a safe manner.
The needles used for acupuncture and dry needling are sterilized, single use needles, which lowers the risk of infection. Certain precautions and contraindications to be aware of are (but not limited to): blood thinner medications, pregnancy, clotting disorders, allergies to surgical steel, immuno-compromised, local infections, joint-replacements or intra-articular hardware (for intra-articular acupuncture), limb with lymphedema, history of bacterial endocarditis. ‘Your health care practitioner will conduct a thorough assessment to determine if you are eligible for this type of treatment.
What is acupuncture used for?
Both acupuncture and dry needling are effective treatments for musculoskeletal and neuropathic pain. Common conditions treated are:
- tension headaches
- neck and upper back pain
- rotator cuff tendinitis
- tennis elbow
- golfers elbow
- carpal tunnel
- postural dysfunction
- lower back pain
- disc herniation
- piriformis syndrome
- hip bursitis
- hamstring strain
- meniscal or ligament sprain/tear
- knee tendinitis
- jumpers knee
- calf strain or tear
- ankle sprain
- achilles tendinitis or tear
- plantar fasciitis