What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine treatment that uses fine needles inserted into specific body locations for therapeutic or preventative purposes. Used in many NHS GP practices, as well as most pain clinics and hospices throughout the United Kingdom, acupuncture is regarded as a complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) used to treat chronic, tension-type headaches and migraines and a range of musculoskeletal conditions affecting the back, muscles, and joints. 

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Western medical acupuncture is the application of acupuncture needles in response to a medical diagnosis. It entails stimulating sensory nerves beneath the skin and within the muscles.

As a result, the body produces endorphins, which are natural pain relievers produced by your body in response to pain or stress. When released, endorphins help reduce the pain and stress levels and enhance mood. It is most likely the release of these substances are responsible for the beneficial effects of acupuncture.

A course of acupuncture usually results in longer-lasting pain relief than a single treatment and this is often used alongside manual therapy, soft tissue massage, spinal manipulation, and mobilisation and exercises programmes.

How Is Acupuncture Performed?

Acupuncture will be performed after an evaluation of your general health, medical history, and physical examination.

Treatment usually consists of several separate sessions, but this can vary. Acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points on the body to relieve symptoms and aid in the healing process.

Depending on your condition and symptoms, acupuncture needles are inserted beneath the skin and a typical session may include the use of several points. They are then left in place for few minutes, up to a maximum of 20 minutes. During that time, there may be a slight tingling or a dull ache, but there should not be any significant pain.

Acupuncture is generally very safe to use and whilst some mild side effects such as bruising, may occur these are short lived. It is also generally safe to use during pregnancy. However, because certain acupuncture points cannot be used safely during pregnancy it is important to inform your practitioner.