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What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a method of treatment in which very fine needles are inserted into the skin at specially designated points.

Acupuncture is a safe and commonly used practice used to treat a wide range of conditions.

A brief history

Acupuncture has been used for the treatment of pain for thousands of years and although its exact actions are not fully understood, there are both traditional and modern theories for the benefits patients experience from it.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) suggests that energy flowing around the body (termed ‘Qi’) can become imbalanced or stagnated giving rise to pain and illness. Traditionalists believe acupuncture can balance and restore this flow by stimulating specific points in the body. These points form channels known as meridians which are believed to connect our major organs.

The modern western theory suggests that acupuncture works by stimulating specific areas of sensitivity on or near the skin's surface. The insertion of the needle stimulates receptors within the layers of tissue which trigger impulses to the spinal cord and the brain. The fibres within the spinal cord help to block our feeling of pain, whilst the areas of the brain stimulated during treatment release the body’s natural pain killers. It is estimated that these natural pain killers are 200 times stronger than morphine which is why acupuncture can work so well for back pain and arthritis. Other physiological effects observed during acupuncture include relief of muscle spasm, increased circulation and reduced inflammation. Some studies have also suggested that acupuncture helps to boosts the immune system.

What can acupuncture be used for?

Acupuncture can be effective for the treatment of painful conditions such as arthritis and migraine. It is a well recognised practice and currently the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) supports the use of acupuncture in the management of certain types of low back pain.

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