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Dec 2021

Why Does Acupuncture Work?

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What makes acupuncture effective?

Acupuncture has been around for centuries and is a key part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture is used to treat acute and chronic pains as well as to help injuries or conditions heal. 

Acupuncture can treat a wide variety of conditions and is an important part of the rehabilitation process of many multi-disciplinary facilities. Acupuncture is the insertion of thin metal needles which stimulate specific points of the body that reach meridians. These meridians (often called energy channels) allows the flow of Qi and other fundamental substances flow through the body. There are many meridians in the body and approximately 360 commonly used acupuncture points (there are often more which can be used for specific targeting). 

Acupuncture is safe and an effective treatment which is typically performed several times per week or less depending on the injury or condition being treated. In most cases approximately 6-10 needles are inserted for best results (number of needles may vary depending on condition or injuries being treated. All acupuncture needles used by our facility are one time use only and are made of stainless steel. In some cases electro-acupuncture is used which is the use of electrical stimulation attached to specific needles to enhance the effect of treatment. 

While it is not specifically known why acupuncture works it is believed by many experts that it causes a release of endorphins in the body which stimulate the nerves muscles and connective tissues that increases blood flow helping boost the body’s natural painkillers. 

Acupuncture first started in the US in 1971 and has grown rapidly with its success in treating various injuries and conditions. In 1996 the FDA gave acupuncture its first seal of approval when acupuncture needles were classified as medical devices. In many studies since 1996 has shown that acupuncture can work. 

The main goal of acupuncture is to help restore the body’s natural healing or self-healing process. In many studies acupuncture has been recognized as an effective treatment for chronic pains. In one study it found that acupuncture was effective in treating:

  • Back and neck pains
  • Osteoarthritis (some doctors may call this degenerative joint disease)
  • Chronic headaches
  • Shoulder pains

What is often overlooked is that acupuncture involves no drugs or prescriptions and is a drug-free approach for pain treatments. It is an alternative to medication that can often be addictive, expensive and can have long lasting negative implications. Acupuncture is often used in the treatment of cancer patients especially those that have had chemotherapy, radiation or those following surgery. Acupuncture can help people who have nausea and vomiting during or after chemo/radiation treatments.

While acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment there are certain times when acupuncture shouldn’t be used such as those on certain types of medications, those who have pacemakers, those at risk of infection or are pregnant. Talk to your doctor or acupuncturist before having treatments started. 

So why does acupuncture work? When acupuncture needles are inserted into acupuncture points is helps to improve the flow of Qi through meridians or channels throughout the body. Acupuncture helps the body self-heal. The needles help stimulate increased blood flow while at the same time help trigger the body’s natural painkillers called endorphins. 

Research that was done in Germany has shown that acupuncture can help relieve tension headaches and migraines. In 2003 the World Health Organization (WHO) listed many conditions in which acupuncture has been proven effective. Some of these conditions include:

  • Facial pains
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sprains
  • Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
  • Sciatica
  • May help with Fibromyalgia
  • Stiff neck tension in neck

While acupuncture has shown in many studies to be effective there are other benefits to acupuncture.

Benefits of Acupuncture are when performed correctly are safe with very few side effects. Acupuncture can be effectively combined with other treatments your doctor has indicated as well as combined with physiotherapy and massage therapy. The other overlooked factor is that acupuncture can be helpful for those where medications are either not suitable or not wanted.

At Dynamic Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic Inc. we have used acupuncture in the treatment of many conditions and have found that is can be effective to help:

  • Relief from chronic and acute pains
  • Reducing pain inflammation and swelling
  • Helps to relieve stress and muscle spasms.
  • Effective treatment to help reduce headaches (tension type headaches) as well as migraines
  • Reducing the symptoms of Osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis

We often combine Acupuncture with Physiotherapy and Massage to help facilitate and speed up the recovery process in complex injuries such as those following an accident or major injury.

Acupuncture like other paramedical services such as physiotherapy and massage can be directly billed to your insurance provider. In most cases a doctor’s referral is not required (an acupuncturist does not need a referral however your insurance carrier may need one).

For more information on how acupuncture can help alleviate chronic pains or injury related pain symptoms contact Dynamic Physiotherapy. Acupuncture can be used safely to treat patients of all ages, however some medical conditions may not be a good match with acupuncture. Contact us at 905-273-5433 or at www.dynamicphysiotherapy.ca

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