Most people have an idea that acupuncture involves needles, but beyond that, much of it seems to be wrapped in mystery and ideas of yin and yang. So what is it, and how does it help, and will you benefit from it?
The benefits of acupuncture
Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into muscles to help relieve local pain and stiffness. It is based on ancient Chinese ideas of energy meridians but recent research has been done to demonstrating its effectiveness through its impact on the immediate area and on the central nervous system.
Following modern medical ideas, it is clear that acupuncture works on identifiable areas of muscle and other tissues, and has verifiable, short-term effects. It can be used in conjunction with osteopathic techniques, or on its own. By working directly into the muscle, the treatment can sometimes be quicker and less uncomfortable for tight, restricted areas than more regular approaches.
There is also the added advantage of being able to work on a few areas at the same time. Using a few needles at the same time can spread treatment over different areas that may be affected by – or be leading to – the problem you have come to be treated for.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture is relatively pain-free, contrary to most people’s assumptions! Many of us have had blood taken, or an inoculation, with the warning of a ‘sharp scratch’ as the needle goes in. This does not happen with acupuncture! Most of the time, you will not even feel the needle going in.The aim is not to cause pain, but to help reduce it. Acupuncture is geared towards helping the body to recover, not forcing it to change, and in this way it shares much of its approach with osteopathy.
Acupuncture can be used to help provide short-term relief from pain associated with chronic low back and neck pain, as well as headaches and migraines. Many long-term issues result in tightening of the muscles around the area, and acupuncture can aid this by working directly into the affected muscles.
Treatment usually consists of working on the immediate area of discomfort, and muscles that are associated with the region. There are also points further away which can be worked on, and are recognised as helping with pain levels or encouraging blood flow to the problematic area. Needles will be left in for anything up to 30 minutes, depending on the reaction of the area to treatment, but sometimes a few moments will be enough to have an effect.
All treatment is tailored to you as an individual, and your reaction to each needle will determine how treatment progresses.