What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture originated in China over two thousand years ago. The traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) model of this technique supports the concept of using needles inserted into the skin at specific points to influence the movement and levels of ā€˜Qiā€™ (i.e. energy or life force) within the body.

When should acupuncture not be used?

There are certain circumstances in which acupuncture should not be used:

  • If you have a needle phobia
  • If you have a known infection in the area to be treated
  • What does acupuncture treatment involve?

    Physiotherapists use sterile, single use needles. These are very thin ā€“ much finer than an injection needle ā€“ and are inserted quickly through the skin into the tissues. Acupuncture should not be painful, although some people report experiencing a pinprick or scratch-like sensation.
    Once the needles are in place, you may feel a mild ache, numbness, warmth or heavy sensation at or around the area being treated. This should not be unpleasant.
    Needles can also be stimulated using electrical impulses. This is called electro-acupuncture. The needles are coupled to a battery-operated machine and produce a tingling sensation at the site of the insertion. Scientific research suggests that low-frequency impulses can help to reduce long-standing chronic pain while high-frequency stimulation can be more helpful in managing acute pain and muscle spasm.

    How many needles will be used?

    A treatment will usually involve the insertion of between two and sixteen needles.

    How long will the needles remain in place?

    Needles can be inserted for as little as a few seconds or minutes. More commonly, needles will remain in place for between ten and thirty minutes.

    Where will the needles go?

    Needles may be inserted:

  • Near to or around the painful area
  • Away from the painful area (e.g. in the hands or feet)
  • On the opposite side of the body
  • Scientific research has shown that needling away from an area of pain is effective. This can be particularly useful if the affected area is very sensitive.

    How many treatments are needed?

    The frequency and number of acupuncture treatments depend on the specific condition being treated and how you respond to therapy. Each session should be tailored to you and your condition. Research suggests that a course of six to ten treatments is required to achieve the best results for long standing painful conditions such as osteoarthritis of the knee.

    Is acupuncture safe?

    Members of the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) are required to train to an internationally recognised minimum standard, are bound by a professional code of conduct through the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and regulated by the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC). Data on acupuncture suggests that minor side effects such as bleeding and bruising occur infrequently. Other minor side effects (e.g. discomfort around the needle site, feeling faint or light-headed, and drowsiness or sleepiness) are even less common.