What is acupuncture?

In our physiotherapy clinics in Tauranga acupuncture is another treatment option during a session and we usually use it alongside traditional physiotherapy treatments. Acupuncture is originally based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) but over the last 10 years or so has become almost a normal treatment option in many physiotherapy practises. So, let us look at a very basic description of what exactly acupuncture can do and how the physios at Back In Action Physiotherapy use it on patients.

Acupuncture is considered a somewhat alternative treatment where we use extremely thin needles in specific points on your body to help stimulate blood flow, improve energy flow in a channel, decrease inflammation, relax out muscle tension, release scar tissue or thickening, increase muscle mobility and pain relief.

A lot of the fear of acupuncture is the needle going in to the skin. In our European culture the only experience most of us have had with needles is in a medical setting where the aim is to either insert or remove something through the needle. Hence those needles have to be thick enough to serve the purpose, however the needles we use in the clinic are for stimulating an area and can therefore be extremely thin. We have different sized needles based on the area of the body we are trying to work on for example we would need a longer needle to get right into the deep muscle in your hip or buttock, but we would only need a very short needle in your hand or foot.

In our clinic we have two different ways of using needles.

TCM (tradition Chinese medicine) – this form of acupuncture is based on the theory that you have energy moving around your body in certain channels. Each channel is related to a different organ in your body and an injury, pain, discomfort, swelling, inflammation etc causes a blockage in that channel. The aim is to stimulate specific points along the channel to encourage energy flow and therefore remove your symptoms. With this treatment you can expect a minimum of 3 needles but anywhere up to 10 that will be put both at the site of injury and anywhere else in your body. Eg for low back pain you will get some needles in your back but you also might get some in your hands, feet or ankles. The needles are put in, stimulated very slightly, then left in there for 3-10minutes. Patients often feel tired or sleepy after this treatment but you should expect to feel less pain within an hour or so and definitely by the next day.

Dry needling/trigger point acupuncture – in this acupuncture treatment the aim is to release tension in a specific area. The most common use is in muscles with ‘knots’ or tight areas, or in a tendon that has become thickened. The therapist will determine the tight area by feeling your muscle, insert the needle into the middle of the ‘knot’, then twist or move the needle in and out to encourage the muscle fibres to wrap around the needle. We are aiming to see a sudden release of tension in the muscle, often seen as a twitch, but will feel the muscle the ensure the tension has released in the desired area. We use one needle at a time but may use the same needle in a different part of your body within the same session to remove multiple tight areas. Patients often feel achy and sore in the area for up to 24 hours while the muscle rejuvenates the area to become more mobile.

IMPORTANT – Back In Action Physiotherapist do not re-use needles! We will NEVER put a needle into 2 different people and we immediately dispose of any used needles into a Sharps Box which is disposed of appropriately.

Before getting acupuncture
– make sure you have eaten before you come otherwise there is a chance you could faint
– do not worry about hairs or skin conditions, acupuncture needles can be used anywhere throughout your body except in swelling

After getting acupuncture
– drink a large glass of water as soon as you get home and more for the next 24 hours to rejuvenate your muscles and body.
– do not exercise immediately, let your muscles recover and relax but expect to perform better in your next session
– do not be alarmed if you sleep heavier than usual that night
– bruising is a common side effect of acupuncture and is considered a good response in TCM due to increased blood flow in the area
– some people respond extremely well from acupuncture and others have no change

For more information about acupuncture and it’s uses for all types of injuries have a chat to one of us in the clinic when you are next in.

Please note we only use acupuncture for physiotherapy-related injuries and cannot help with such things as quitting smoking, fertility or cancer treatment.