The use of acupuncture is most commonly recognised as an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and involves piercing the skin with fine metal needles in order to relieve symptoms, cure disease and promote health. The use of acupuncture in China dates back to at least 3000 years.
Contemporary use of acupuncture varies considerably from practitioner but it is generally accepted that there are three main types of acupuncture used:
- Traditional Chinese Acupuncture
- Western Medical Acupuncture
- Dry Needling
As physiotherapists we use an entirely different approach to acupuncture as traditional acupuncturists, many physiotherapists use dry needling to treat myofascial trigger points as an adjunct to other physiotherapy treatment techniques.
Practitioners, like me, who are trained in Western Medical Acupuncture use acupuncture as a treatment based on orthodox clinical diagnosis. Points are chosen based on neurophysiological principles. This broadens the use of acupuncture outside of trigger point therapy to areas such as women’s health ( fertility, ovulation pain and others), sinus problems and general pain conditions.
There is a lot of evidence to support for the use of acupuncture and Dry Needling for the treatment of various musculo-skeletal conditions. It is hard for science to entirely explain what acupuncture does so studies are being conducted all the time to explain how it works. Here are some of the conditions that are commonly treated using Western Medical Acupuncture:
- Myofascial Trigger points associated with sports injury or pain
- Neck/Upper Back/Lower Back Pain
- Pelvic Girdle Pain during and after pregnancy
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Nausea During Pregnancy
- Fertility Issues
- Hip and Knee Osteo-arthritis
- Sinus Pain
- Headaches including Migraine
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If you are interested in looking at the research side of things, the Cochrane library is a great place to look at individual conditions and the evidence supporting their treatment with acupuncture. One problem with the studies done with acupuncture is that many studies find that placebo performs as well as acupuncture sometimes, but that both placebo and acupuncture perform better than nothing at all! This suggests that there is something going on in our bodies ( or brains) that responds really well to the actual process of acupuncture rather than the exact placement of the needles.