Western Medical Acupuncture - The benefits of acupuncture for treating injuries

You might have heard of acupuncture – but did you know that it’s a treatment commonly offered by physiotherapists, to help speed up the recovery of injured muscles and tendons? Read on to discover more about what acupuncture entails and the benefits it offers…

What is acupuncture?

While western medical acupuncture has its roots embedded in traditional Chinese medicine, practitioners (including physiotherapists) tend not to adhere to the traditionalist concepts of energy circulation, and instead use it to help stimulate the nervous system, to encourage healing and pain relief. It involves the insertion of very fine needles in and around the problem area, but don’t worry – the needles are so thin you will likely only feel a very minor pinprick (and sometimes you may not feel them being inserted at all!). Once inserted, you may experience a dull ache, although this shouldn’t be unpleasant. Generally, your physiotherapist will use anywhere between two and eight needles in each body part per session, and they can be left in place for anything up to 20 minutes.

What is acupuncture used for?

Western medical acupuncture is commonly used by physiotherapists to help treat musculoskeletal pain. However, it can also be used to treat post-operative pain, migraines and tension headaches, and nausea. Read more about acupuncture on the NHS website.

How does acupuncture work?

Your physiotherapist may decide to use Western medical acupuncture to help promote healing and speed up recovery if you have injured a muscle or tendon. They may also offer it as a form of pain relief. The acupuncture works by stimulating the nerve ending that sends a message to the brain. The brain sends a message back, and numbs the area where the needle is inserted. This is a simplified explanation, but is known as the pain-gate theory.

Increased blood flow to the injured area

When the fine acupuncture needle is inserted into, or near, the affected area, it promotes blood flow, which in turn brings increased oxygen and nutrients, thus speeding up healing.

The release of endorphins and oxytocin

The acupuncture needles stimulate the production of endorphins and oxytocin, both of which are known to help relieve pain and stress (acupuncture can be a highly relaxing treatment!).

Stimulation of nerve fibres

Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate nerve fibres, which can block out pain signals.

Increased range of movement

By reducing pain in a particular area, it increases your ability to move and flex that muscle.

Is acupuncture safe?

To be able to offer acupuncture services, your physiotherapist will have completed a course through the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP). Due to the strict hygiene guidelines and training, rest assured that it’s perfectly safe. The needles (which are fine and generally around 0.2mm) are single use, sterilised and individually packaged, so there is no chance of contamination. Side effects tend to be mild, but can include feelings of drowsiness and localised redness, bruising or occasionally a tiny amount of spot bleeding following treatment.

If you’re interested in acupuncture, speak with your Surrey Physio physiotherapist or osteopath for further information and to see if they think it would be a beneficial addition to your treatment plan.