Medical acupuncture, which is sometimes referred to as ‘dry needling’, is a modern adaptation of traditional Chinese acupuncture. It was formed using the principles of evidence-based medicine and incorporates modern knowledge of anatomy and physiology. It is used by doctors, physiotherapists, osteopaths and health practitioners who have undertaken the appropriate postgraduate acupuncture training.
The treatment involves the precise insertion of fine single-use sterilised acupuncture needles into myofascial trigger points (small areas of tension located within the muscle). This creates both a local and systemic reaction which aims to promote pain relief.
How does medical acupuncture work?
On a local level, the acupuncture needles may improve symptoms of discomfort by relaxing the muscle, through finely targeted treatment.
When looking at the system-wide effect of acupuncture, the modern scientific explanation is that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system. This encourages an increase in the body’s own naturally occurring painkillers (eg endorphin and serotonin) in the pain pathways of both the spinal cord and brain. This modifies the way pain signals are received and therefore there is a decrease in pain.
What can medical acupuncture treat?
I sometimes use medical acupuncture as an adjunct to osteopathic treatment. It may be helpful for a range of painful conditions and is commonly used for short-term relief of chronic lower back pain and neck pain, and can help with the management of knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.
There is evidence that it is effective in the short-term relief of tension type headaches and migraines.
Some people also report feeling revitalized, and of course relaxed, after acupuncture treatment.
Is acupuncture painful? What if I don’t like needles?
If you don’t like the idea of medical acupuncture, I won’t use acupuncture – it’s as simple as that.
However, medical acupuncture needles are very different from normal hypodermic needle injections. The acupuncture needles I use have a maximum diameter of 0.22mm, a bit bigger than a human hair, and are therefore not comparable to an injection.
Patients often don’t even feel the insertion of a needle. An involuntary muscle twitch response may be felt, and sometimes a dull, heavy tension or pressure building around the point of insertion. A full consultation will always be taken beforehand to establish any contraindications to treatment.
Remember, if you are unsure whether medical acupuncture can help your particular issue, you can always get in touch.