Acupuncture

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Acupuncture is a complex medical system that is used to diagnose and treat illness, prevent disease and improve well being. It originated in China more than 3,000 years ago and due to it’s proven effectiveness has been embraced throughout the world. It involves the insertion of extremely fine pre-sterilised needles at predetermined points on the body’s surface to restore health.

Acupuncture can be used alone or combined with conventional Western Medicine, Osteopathy and Cranial Osteopathy, Herbal treatments and Homeopathy.

 

Commonly Treated Conditions

The World Health Organization recognizes Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine as a viable means of treatment for a wide range of conditions.

Some of the most commonly seen complaints in the acupuncture clinic are as follows:

  • Infections: Colds, Flu, Viral Infections.
  • Ear, Nose and Throat Conditions: Sinusitis, Hay fever, Rhinitis, Catarrh.
  • Dermatology: Eczema, Psoriasis, Acne.
  • Psychological: Depression, Stress, Insomnia, Anxiety
  • Musculoskeletal: Arthritis, Sciatica, Pain Relief, Sports Injury, Bells Palsy.
  • Internal Disease: Asthma, Bronchitis, Blood Pressure, Indigestion, Bowel Problems, Diabetes, M.E., Headaches/ Migraine, M.S, Trigeminal Neuralgia.
  • Genitourinary/ Gynaecology: Infertility, Impotence, Premenstrual Syndrome, Menstrual Problems, Menopause, Cystitis.

 

More conditions acupuncture can treat

Acupuncture focuses on improving the well being of the patient as a whole and as such it can help people with a wide range of ailments.

The British Acupuncture Council has compiled research documents into the effective treatment of acupuncture and currently lists a number of health conditions acupuncture can treat. In addition the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a section of research dedicated to Acupuncture, in particular they list the diseases or disorders for which acupuncture has been tested in controlled clinical trials:

Diseases and disorders that can be treated with acupuncture

The diseases or disorders for which acupuncture therapy has been tested in controlled clinical trials reported in the recent literature can be classified into four categories as shown below.

1. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved-through controlled trials-to be an effective treatment:

Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
Biliary colic
Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
Dysentery, acute bacillary
Dysmenorrhoea, primary
Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
Headache
Hypertension, essential
Hypotension, primary
Induction of labour
Knee pain
Leukopenia
Low back pain
Malposition of fetus, correction of
Morning sickness
Nausea and vomiting
Neck pain
Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
Periarthritis of shoulder
Postoperative pain
Renal colic
Rheumatoid arthritis
Sciatica
Sprain
Stroke
Tennis elbow

2. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed:

Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
Acne vulgaris
Alcohol dependence and detoxification
Bell’s palsy
Bronchial asthma
Cancer pain
Cardiac neurosis
Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
Cholelithiasis
Competition stress syndrome
Craniocerebral injury, closed
Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
Earache
Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
Female infertility
Facial spasm
Female urethral syndrome
Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
Gastrokinetic disturbance
Gouty arthritis
Hepatitis B virus carrier status
Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
Hyperlipaemia
Hypo-ovarianism
Insomnia
Labour pain
Lactation, deficiency
Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
Ménière disease
Neuralgia, post-herpetic
Neurodermatitis
Obesity
Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
Osteoarthritis
Pain due to endoscopic examination
Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome)
Postextubation in children
Postoperative convalescence
Premenstrual syndrome
Prostatitis, chronic
Pruritus
Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
Raynaud syndrome, primary
Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
Retention of urine, traumatic
Schizophrenia
Sialism, drug-induced
Sjögren syndrome
Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
Spine pain, acute
Stiff neck
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
Tietze syndrome
Tobacco dependence
Tourette syndrome
Ulcerative colitis, chronic
Urolithiasis
Vascular dementia
Whooping cough (pertussis)

3. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which there are only individual controlled trials reporting some therapeutic effects, but for which acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult:

Chloasma
Choroidopathy, central serous
Colour blindness
Deafness
Hypophrenia
Irritable colon syndrome
Neuropathic bladder in spinal cord injury
Pulmonary heart disease, chronic
Small airway obstruction

4. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture may be tried provided the practitioner has special modern medical knowledge and adequate monitoring equipment:

Breathlessness in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Coma
Convulsions in infants
Coronary heart disease (angina pectoris)
Diarrhoea in infants and young children
Encephalitis, viral, in children, late stage
Paralysis, progressive bulbar and pseudobulbar

 


Research supporting the benefits of acupuncture

The Acupuncture Research Resource Centre (ARRC) who are based in London have a number of briefing papers which cover research on acupuncture’s effectiveness for a variety of conditions.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) who are US based have also compiled a list of research documents.

NICE who provide medical guidance to the NHS recommend (p11, 1.6.1) acupuncture to GP’s as one of the treatments for persistent lower back pain. “Consider offering a course of acupuncture needling comprising up to a maximum of 10 sessions over a period of up to 12 weeks.”

 

How many treatments will I need?

Since each person is unique the number of treatments needed, will vary.

In general, chronic long term conditions take longer to treat than acute conditions that have just occurred. If the patient is in good health recovery is usually quicker.

Also the frequency of treatment prescribed will have an impact. Initially treatments may be administered close together and then become less frequent as the condition improves. We will discuss the treatment options in your consultation.

 

How does acupuncture work?

In short, there is no widely accepted theory as to how acupuncture works. The traditional Chinese theory holds that the body’s life energy called Qi (pronounced Chee) travels around the body in pathways called meridians. The acupuncturist views illness as an energetic imbalance and is able to influence this imbalance by inserting very fine needles at certain points along these channels called Acupoints. The acupuncturist may also use heat treatment (called Moxibustion) in the treatment. We use far-infrared heat lamps in the clinic in place of herbal moxa.

Much research show that acupuncture causes a release of endorphins, the body’s naturally produced painkillers. Research also indicates that acupuncture causes beneficial effects to the body’s immune and endocrine systems. A good deal of research has been carried out on the ‘Pain Gate Theory’ first proposed in 1965 which basically held that the insertion of an acupuncture needle can interrupt the signals from the sensory nerve endings to the brain and thus have an analgesic effect. However most modern research is focussing on the theory that acupuncture has profound neurophysiological effects and up to details of current research can be found on the US National Institutes of Health website (www.nih.gov).

My personal favourite is the work done by James Oschmann PhD, a biophysicist, who researchs Energy Medicine.His work brings a solid scientific basis to many alternative and complementary medical models, and the experiences of both practitioners and patients. He has sections covering acupuncture, homeopathy and osteopathy. I have met Dr Oschmann and heartily recommend his 2 books:

 

“Energy Medicine: the scientific basis” is a good introductory work and an easy read.

“Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance” is a more detailed book and covers a broader area of research.

 

Do the needles hurt?

Most people’s experience of needles is that of those used to give injections, take blood etc. Acupuncture needles differ from these hypodermic syringes in that they are much finer and are solid rather than hollow, they are designed to part the skin without cutting the tissues. Sterile stainless steel needles are commonly used with a diameter of between 0.14mm to 0.35mm which is about the thickness of a human hair.

You may experience a slight prick as the needle penetrates the skin but this is a momentary experience, most people would describe the feeling as virtually painless or no more painful than plucking out a hair. What happens after the needle is inserted is of much more importance and you must provide feedback on what you are feeling to your practitioner. Most people feel a dull ache, tingling or feeling of heaviness or numbness around the area where the needle is, occasionally a mild electrical pulsation radiating away from the site of the needle is felt. Reactions such as these to needling are of vital clinical importance to the Acupuncturist and signify that the Qi has been accessed, i.e. De Chi (pronounced De Chee). The needles are then left in place from 15 to 30 minutes and may be occasionally manipulated by the Practitioner.

Removal of the needles causes no discomfort and minor bleeding may sometimes occur which can be stemmed with a cotton swab. The practitioner may also insert needles into the surface of your ear (Auricular Acupuncture) depending on your condition. Some facial acupoints may bruise after needling so if a minor facial bruise bothers you then tell your practitioner and usually another acupoint can be selected elsewhere on your body. It is vital that you tell your practitioner if you suffer from any diseases transmissible by blood (e.g. HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis etc.) or if you are on any blood thinning medication, these facts should come out during the Case History but you must disclose this to your practitioner.

It is also vital that you tell your practitioner if you are (or even suspect that you might be) pregnant as some acupoints are contraindicated during pregnancy and neither you nor your practitioner will want to take any unnecessary risks with your pregnancy.

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6 months after my Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction I’ve begun rehabilitating for my sports, Taekwondo and Aikido. Bit of swelling around knee cap though no pain. A few needles and far infra red lamp and I’ll be fine in a few hours!