Acupuncture – How it works

Relaxed smiling women receiving acupuncture treatmentAcupuncture works in reducing pain by at least two methods:-

  • Firstly it stimulates the release in the brain of chemical substances called endorphins, which are the body’s own pain killers.
  • Secondly, stimulating nerves with acupuncture effectively overloads them so that they are less able to carry pain messages to the brain.

Other actions of acupuncture can include raising the blood levels of white blood cells and antibodies that fight infection, and producing a calming effect by the release of other natural chemicals in the brain.

Acupuncture is a useful treatment for many painful conditions, especially those caused by muscle sprains or strains eg. strained neck, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, low back pain, sciatica (provided it is not caused by a slipped disc), period pain, shingles and arthritis.

There are a number of other conditions for which acupuncture can be performed as an extra treatment in addition to orthodox western medical methods. These include the symptoms of menopause. It is absolutely essential that a patient receiving acupuncture treatment is first assessed by a doctor. Under no circumstances should a patient stop or change any of their other treatments except in consultation with a doctor (it would be extremely dangerous for example, to stop using your asthma puffers or tablets).

The needles used for acupuncture are even finer than those used for giving injections. Insertion is virtually painless, however sensations such as tingling, numbness or heaviness may be felt during treatment and are part of the affect of acupuncture stimulating nerves.

The number of treatments necessary varies with the nature and severity of the complaint, and with the length of time it has been present. In some cases, for example an acute strained neck or morning sickness, relief may be obtained after two or three sessions. Other conditions such as low back pain which has been present for many years may require six to ten treatments before marked relief is evident. Usually the first signs of improvement are a return to normal sleep and improved range of movement.
For best results, the patient should be warm, relaxed and not overly hungry at the time of treatment. People who are physically exhausted, fasting or suffering from bleeding disorders should not undergo acupuncture treatment, and the practitioner should know if you are pregnant, taking warfarin tablets or have a pacemaker.

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(Last modified: 13th Oct 2014)

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