In recent years the practice of acupuncture has become very much more mainstream, however, I am still often asked what does it do and how does it works?

So I thought I would try and answer a few questions:

  • What is Acupuncture?

  • How does it work?

  • What can acupuncture help with and what is the evidence?

  • Is it safe and are there any risks?

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into the body at specific points along recorded channels called meridians.  Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine principles with records dating back to 1000BC. The body is designed to be  in balance - homeostasis- and injury can upset this balance. Acupuncture supports the body to regain this balance.

How does it work?

As the acupuncture needle enters the tissues there is an increase in circulation to the area. This will cause release of chemicals to modulate inflammation.  The needles also stimulate the release of endorphins and oxytocin, these chemical relieve stress and reduce pain.  Acupuncture enhances the release of melatonin promoting good sleep and encourages a sense of well-being by stimulating the release of serotonin. Acupuncture also stimulates nerve fibres to inhibit pain signals and helps to reduce levels of discomfort in the body.

So what can acupuncture help with and is there evidence to support its use?

There is a large body of scientific research emerging to prove the effectiveness of acupuncture.   The AACP (Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists)  have produced a chart to demonstrate how acupuncture can help and shows some of the extensive evidence available.


Is Acupuncture Safe?

Acupuncture is a very safe procedure when carried out by fully qualified professionals.   Victoria at ThamesPhysio is fully trained in Acupuncture and has been practising the technique since 2002.  Victoria is a member of the AACP - which means she has completed a recognised accredited course and kept her knowledge up to date with regular courses.  The needles used are sterile and single use only and are disposed of by incineration.

Acupuncture needles are the very thin between 0.2mm and 0.4 mm and are thus much smaller than an injection needle, so having acupuncture does not feel the same as having an injection.

Any side effects tend to be mild and short-lived. They may include: fatigue, feeling light headed, 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.  

Can anyone have Acupuncture?

There are a few contraindications, or restrictions, to the use of acupuncture and Victoria  would discuss these with you if acupuncture would be an appropriate adjunct to your physiotherapy.  

The AACP have released an interesting video diary of a patient who received acupuncture as part of her physiotherapy management of sciatica.

Kirsty, a 25 year old graphic designer, has been suffering with Sciatica since the age of 19. She has previously been prescribed pain-killers and anti-inflammatory drugs by a GP but neither provided long-term management of her pain. Her video diary follows her six sessions of acupuncture with physiotherapy.

If you would like to discuss acupuncture and its possible use for your problems please contact Victoria at ThamesPhysio.