Acupuncture: Facts, fears and fiction. Part 1 of 2

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What is it?

Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into the body at specific points. We use single use stainless steel needles- which get disposed of in sharps bin in the rooms. The needles come packaged in a plastic guide tube which we use to help us insert the needle as quickly as possible. The needles are much smaller than the needles that most people know of or have had before in blood tests or injections. Our needles are just slightly thicker than a stand of hair and part the tissue strands instead of puncturing.

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History of acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used by the Chinese for well over 3000 years for pain relief, healing and general well-being. Pieces of sharpened stone and bone were discovered and dated as being from as early as 6000BC, one theory is that these were early signs of acupuncture tools. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine is the first document in which the diagnosis and treatment for acupuncture is recorded. This text dates back to 100BC. Acupuncture was widely used throughout Asia going through periods where it was accepted as common practice and times where it was seen as a superstitious and alternative therapy. This was mainly due to the beliefs of those who were ruling at the time. A European physician was the first known person to write a medical description of what acupuncture was after witnessing it in Japan. Acupuncture received a lot of interest from the United Kingdom and the United States in the early nineteenth century and several scientific studies were done by well respected journals. Since then acupuncture has grown in popularity in Western countries and is now not seen as so alternative by most.

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Types of acupuncture?

In New Zealand there are three main types of acupuncture. Traditional Chinese acupuncture which is based on Chinese theories of balancing energy. This is based on meridian lines and defined acupuncture points. Western medical acupuncture is based on Western concepts of anatomy and physiology. Dry Needling is a rapid short term needling to tender trigger points to improve or restore function.

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What is it used for?

Acupuncture is used to treat many conditions such as: acute and chronic injuries, back and neck pain, muscle and joint problems, nerve pain, arthritis, headaches and migraines, and sports injuries. In traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture is used for a variety of other conditions such as losing weight, quitting smoking, anaesthesia and stress reduction.

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How does it work?

Inserting a needle into the body has an effect on the nerves which can release muscle and can over-ride brain signals. Acupuncture has been proven to release endorphins. Endorphins create an analgesic effect but inhibiting pain. When a needle is inserted it creates an increase in blood flow which helps to relax tight muscles. We use points dependent on the actual injury itself. We could pick local points which are points close to the injured area- these points reduce inflammation, increase blood flow and reduce pain. We could pick points that in the area of innervations or in the same meridian line due to their relationship with the injured area.

Dry needling is when the needle is inserted into a trigger point. The needle is inserted into the skin and repetitively pushed into the trigger point. The needle induces injury signals in the brain which start the repairing process of the damaged tissue. This is often why this type of needling is more painful.

Traditional Chinese acupuncture is based on the belief that disease is a disruption of the flow of energy in the body. Energy flows in the meridian lines so points along these lies are needling to try to influence the flow of energy in a particular meridian line.

Part two- coming in February.

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Author: Renee Sharp – Physiotherapist at Physio Fix

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