Acupuncture is a treatment based upon an ancient, tried and tested tradition from China whereby very fine, sterile, surgical steel needles are carefully inserted into the body. The locations chosen for the needles depend upon the condition being treated. Once the needles are in place the patient is encouraged to rest for 20-30 minutes to allow the body to respond.
How does it work?
Different needle locations and techniques have been reported to elicit different responses in the body (Lund and Lundeberg, 2016), including:
- Stimulating the body to release chemicals that help with managing pain and inflammation
- Promoting a response from the limbic system of the brain and the hypothalamus-pituitary axis
- Engaging the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” aspect)
Is it safe?
There have been a number of large scale research studies into the safety of acupuncture, most notably the York Acupuncture Safety Study (MacPherson et al. 2001), which show it has an excellent safety record as a treatment; most negative incidents occurred with unlicensed practitioners.
What if I don’t like needles?
A quick internet image search for “acupuncture needle vs hypodermic needle” will show you just how fine acupuncture needles are: it is likely to be a very different experience to other needles you may have had before, so please don’t worry. Alternative treatment methods are available if you are still not keen on needles though, such as acupressure, tui na medical massage, heat therapy (including moxibustion), cupping and electro-stimulation of points.