Medical acupuncture or ‘dry needling’ works with the body’s natural analgesic mechanisms to promote tissue healing and pain relief without the need for medication.
Taken beyond the ancient Chinese traditional therapy, this form of acupuncture is based on clinical research evidence, anatomy and physiology, and targets the source of pain for each individual rather than following a pre-designed body map.
Why Have Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is used at Arcadia to reduce pain and potentially ease deep ‘knots’ in muscle tissue. This is an effective starting point for relief and rehabilitation of lower back pain, tension headaches and achilles tendonitis, for example. It can also have a range of other effects on the body: it can relax or stimulate bodily functions such as digestion.
It is often a very useful kick-start to changing and rehabilitating long-held pain.
The needles are inserted at points that feel tender or firm as guided by the patient’s feedback – it’s a constant communication between therapist and patient. We don’t follow a set ‘map’ of needle points, we go where the patient, and our hands, guide us.
Will it Hurt?
Acupuncture is often most effective in tissues that are very tender or feel tight that would be uncomfortable to massage or treat with other manual therapy. Contrary to the common (and understandable!) assumption that putting needles in skin will hurt, most are entirely painless. This is because most of the sensation nerves are in the skin – once the needle is through the skin the sensation is usually dulled, and as the needles are so fine they rarely hurt on insertion too.
Some people do experience some sensations, and these can range from a sudden twitch (corresponding with a ‘release’ of the muscle knot) to an intensifying ache that comes and goes as the session progresses. These feelings are entirely normal and do not mean that there is anything wrong – indeed they are a sign that the body is reacting as it should to the needle.
Most people experience a feeling of deep relaxation – some clients actually come for acupuncture with this as their goal rather than treating any injury. It can cause you to feel a little drowsy or vague for a few hours afterwards, but this response varies from person to person.
Is is Safe?
Acupuncture is a safe procedure. All our needles are sterile, individually packaged and one-use only. Therapists are trained to avoid touching the needle itself at any time, which further minimises any risk of infection.
Very occasionally a needle might create a small bleed on removal. These are painless and are stopped up immediately with firm pressure.
You may feel stiffness or aching in the 24 hours following treatment. Again this is normal and does not mean that anything is damaged. Like massage, acupuncture is intended to stimulate the healing mechanisms of your body, and will be affecting the chemistry of your cells around the treatment site. Patients who report some slight discomfort the day after treatment also invariably report feeling significantly better the following day than they were before treatment.
How Does it Work?
Put simply, Acupuncture promotes the body’s own sophisticated healing mechanisms, using the needle as an ‘acceptable micro-trauma’ to stimulate the healing cascade. It works via a number of processes:
~ stimulates the release of natural chemicals in the connective tissue that bind to and ‘block’ pain messages to the brain.
~ stimulates the dilation (widening) of blood vessels and capillaries – this increases blood flow, flow of nutrients to the area, and facilitates the lymph system’s removal of waste produce.
~ the brain responds to this stimulation by secreting serotonin and further reducing the perception of pain, usually having the effect of making the patient feel relaxed and calm overall.
Via these local and systemic processes, acupuncture can result in a stimulation of the ‘rest and digest’ nervous system – responsible for movement of food along your gut and the usual processes of cell renewal and repair that can get suppressed in bodies undergoing stress for a long time. For this reason, numerous people seek acupuncture as a relaxing treatment as well as for specific injuries.