Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique that makes use of needles to stimulate a response in the body. In the context of chiropractic, we often use this technique in conjunction with other manual therapies for the purpose of pain relief. Although acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, there has been a significant outpouring of research on acupuncture in the last three decades that proves its effectiveness for managing certain conditions.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture elicits several different forms of biological response in the body. This occurs through the sensory and the central nervous system. Our bodies naturally create “feel-good” chemicals that act on the same receptors that opioid medication does. These chemicals include endorphins which are responsible for creating feelings of euphoria and suppressing pain. When acupuncture needles are inserted, opioid peptides are released which provides one explanation for acupuncture’s role in pain management.
Acupuncture stimulation also seems to activate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland which are both located in the brain. This leads to changes with neurotransmitters, hormone secretion, and blood flow throughout the body. This complex cascade of changes may explain some of the other interesting widespread effects seen with acupuncture treatment.
What does an acupuncture treatment look like?
Your acupuncture provider will perform an assessment to determine which points to use during the treatment. Typically anywhere from 1-10 needles are used during a single treatment. Points are often selected locally (close to where your pain is coming from), and distally (at different points away from the site of pain). Once you are in a comfortable position, the needles are inserted and are remain in place for approximately 15-25 minutes. Stimulation can be used to enhance the therapeutic effect either manually by the practitioner twirling the needles, or with a machine that connects to the needles to deliver a gentle electric current.
The treatment should be comfortable. In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, we are aiming for the acupuncture recipient to experience qi. Qi is a vital energy or life force. During the treatment you may experience qi as sensations of sleepiness, heaviness, dullness, or a state of deep relaxation.
What conditions can acupuncture be used to treat?
Acupuncture can be used to treat or manage a variety of conditions including: nausea and vomiting, dental pain, low back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, menstrual cramps, headaches, and chronic pain. As chiropractors, our focus with acupuncture is in alleviating pain that is related to the muskuloskeletal system.
Are there any risks associated with acupuncture treatment?
As with any other medical intervention, there are risks related to acupuncture treatment. Minor risks include bleeding or bruising around the site of needle insertion, nausea, fainting, temporary worsening of symptoms, or broken needles. More serious risks include the risk of infection or organ perforation. The practitioner administering acupuncture is trained in understanding these risks and taking appropriate steps to minimize them. They will also go through a process of informed consent with you prior to commencing treatment so you can understand how the risks relate to you specifically, and have an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the treatment.
How do I know if acupuncture is right for me?
If you are interested in acupuncture, make an appointment with a local acupuncture provider; they will complete a thorough health history and physical exam to help you determine if the treatment is an appropriate fit, and will be able to determine if there are any contraindications to the treatment. Acupuncture can be provided by the following healthcare providers with proper acupuncture certification: chiropractors, acupuncturists, medical doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, and massage therapists.
If you would like to book an appointment with me, please give our clinic a call at 519-827-0040 so we can determine how acupuncture can play a role in your healthcare routine.
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