So what does Acupuncture do? The traditional treatment is to do with Qi/Ch’i, which as a direct translation means breath or air, but figuratively translates as energy flow. The acupuncture needles are therefore, supposed to help this Qi flow freely along specific pathways known as meridians. Acupuncture has been used for over 2000 years and in the last 30 years the medical profession has started to question if the traditional acupuncturists knew something we didn’t.
Now for the real science, I will endeavour to keep this simple/less boring. Puncturing the skin with a needle will result in a reaction from the body; the needle is just a sterilised bit of metal there is nothing on it or being injected by it. Due to the micro trauma created by the needle there will be an immune reaction; important hormones will be released:
1) Versions of adrenaline; which will cause blood flow to increase
2) Endorphins, a special group of hormones that effect bodies opiate receptors causing an analgesic affect, think of them as a pain killer produced by the body.
The increase in blood flow caused by these hormonal changes will bring Oxygen. Oxygen is one of the best anti-inflammatories money can buy and the anti-inflammatory action of the body is vital in the treatment of any musculoskeletal condition.
Now the very sciency bit and the major benefit from needling. Acupuncture causes hormonal inhibition of a particular pathway of nerves in the spinal cord and a distinct part of brain that deal with pain (for those interested: spinothalamic tract, thalamus and the cerebral cortex), this inhibition will actually reduce the sensitivity of these distinct areas of the brain and result in an overall drop in pain response. So for those of you suffering from chronic condition such as; osteoarthritis or long standing spinal conditions, acupuncture can reduce the hypersensitivity of the brain and reduce your pain levels.
So there you go, acupuncture is a fantastic treatment option for a wide scope of conditions. So next treatment ask you physio if acupuncture is something that could help you, my theory is that it probably will.