Acupuncture Treatment In Cardiff
Acupuncture is a staggering 2500 years old. Traditionally it originated in China and was used for many ailments from infections to improving energy flow (an outdated model now) and overall well-being. TCM (Traditional Chinese acupuncture) has been adapted into the western world for a much lesser time. The process involves inserting a very fine needle(s) into the skin. Some may go deep and some may only go a few millimeters into the surface of the skin. There is little pain but often a dull ache with acupuncture, which is very tolerable for the patient. Acupuncture has expanded into many practices around the world, chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, medical doctors, and veterinarians may use it along with their various other treatments. Here in our Cardiff clinic, it is generally used with other modalities such as sports tape, rehab, and spinal manipulation. Acupuncture may be called dry needling or medical acupuncture when not using the traditional acupuncture philosophy.
“Acupuncture has been researched extensively; as of 2013, there were almost 1,500 randomized controlled trials on PubMed with "acupuncture" in the title. The results of reviews of acupuncture's efficacy, however, have been inconclusive.”
TCM practitioners use a whole system of diagnosis that would be very different from complementary therapists or a primary health care practitioner/provider. TCM will measure heart rate by placing their fingers on certain arteries to feel for the heartbeat. They believe they can diagnose different issues depending on how the beat feels for that particular patient. They will also look at the tongue and eyes, again to find a diagnosis. These practices have little research currently, or the research that is out there is inconclusive. If you have ever been to an acupuncture clinic you will see many jars of herbs which are used to help treat whatever the patient has come in for. I am an ex-smoker and I tried this method to quit smoking, unfortunately, it did not work for me (I did quit in my clinical year of university) but I did find the acupuncture incredibly relaxing after each session and had a very good sleep too.
What does acupuncture feel like?
Some patients have needle phobias so we would never pressure someone to have the treatment if it is going to cause excessive stress. We have many treatment techniques for pain relief. When the needle first enters the skin patients will either feel nothing or a mild sharpness that subsides in a few seconds. Very similar to pulling one of the tiny hairs out on your forearm. You may feel a dull ache or deep pressure and you may also feel tingling or a buzzing sensation. One of the interesting feelings you may achieve is a sensation in a different part of the body compared to where the needle is located. This is called a referral pattern. Neurology is complex and these referral patterns are not yet fully understood. Peripheralization is when pain spreads to other areas of the body like sciatica that can travel down the back of the leg and to the foot. We want to achieve centralization, this is where we make the pain to get smaller and to a focal point, relieving the traveling pain. Very rarely is it painful and often creates a sense of relaxation. We use it mainly for tight muscles, spasms and a poor range of motion of a particular joint. Some people may feel a little achy a few hours after treatment which is normal but not uncomfortable. Patients report better sleep also which adds to the pain relief due to lower levels of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones which can create more tension in muscles. So less cortisol equals less amounts of pain.
“It is no longer possible to say that the effectiveness of acupuncture can be attributed to the placebo effect or that it is useful only for musculoskeletal pain.”
How does Acupuncture work?
Nerve fibers (Aδ, Aβ and C), neuropeptides, hormones, biochemicals...it’s a mouthful of complex words that have no meaning if you are not interested in that type of thing. But I want to break it down into a concise easy to read understanding on the mechanisms of acupuncture. Think of acupuncture as a natural analgesic. Placing a needle into an area of the body creates a response called purinergic signaling. Our nerves are like a complex highway, compare them to a large motorway where cars are going up and down sending information to and from their destinations. The destination in neuroscience terms is the brain and it’s branching nerves. When the needle is placed into an area or site of pain, the brain releases many different chemicals such as our natural opioids to create an analgesic response. It’s very sciencey but it is important that we know as much as possible, and a good understanding of the subject to deliver informed care. TCM has quite a different philosophy to the evidence-based explanation. TCM believes in Qi (or chi). Qi is known as the life energy and energy flow/force of every living thing. They also believe in the systems of meridians, which are to be said, lines of energy throughout the body with hundreds of different points for placement of acupuncture needles or acupressure (deep thumb pressure). If one of these meridians gets blocked then the flow of energy stops or is restricted at that point causing pain or illness. Placing needles into these blockages frees the energy to flow freely again. In some other countries with a long history of religion, they have their own names for Qi such as India's system of Chakras. Chakras (7 of them) is another energy system that comes from India that believes chakras need to be in balance to be healthy in the body and the mind. Many yoga systems around the world use precise movements and focused breath to balance their energy and chakras. Japan has a similar philosophy to China’s and calls it Ki. personally find it all fascinating but would I used these philosophies in evidence-based practice.
There is little to no evidence that these meridians exist. Not yet anyway. No anatomy studies have found these meridian lines but it remains a very popular treatment around the world. People do want natural alternatives to healthcare and are willing to try treatments without the use of medications. That is a healthy outlook on health but it can also be dangerous. Some medications are essential for certain heart and neurological conditions so it is always safer to consult your GP before quitting medication and trying a natural alternative.
What is a placebo?
Below is the definition of what a placebo is:
“a substance given to someone who is told that it is a particular medicine, either to make that person feel as if they are getting better or to compare the effect of the particular medicine when given to others”
You may have heard of a placebo or you may not have. If you have then you may think that it is just a way to show that something does not work. The funny thing is that a placebo is having some very interesting results. The power of belief seems to be a very successful tool for certain issues, including pain. The power of suggestion combined with a strong belief that something will work can have and is having some profound effects. Hypnosis works by accessing parts of the mind we cannot and getting it to either change patterns of behavior that are detrimental or if you have seen stage shows, can get people to do the most ridiculous things they would not normally do like barking like a dog or dancing around like a chicken. An element of chiropractic has a placebo effect. If a patient comes in with a ten-year history of back pain and said it’s unlikely you are going to get better then the chances of a poorer outcome are likely. If we use positive reinforcement and tell them that if they do a, b and c then the likely hood of them getting better had a much higher likelihood. One of the most amazing facts about placebo is that if you tell them they are having a placebo it still works! If you want to find out more about the placebo effect click here.
What are the benefits of acupuncture?
This is the part most people are typing into Google when deciding if acupuncture is right for them or not. Here at Corbin chiropractic people come to me from all over Cardiff and the wider area of South Wales to experience acupuncture for themselves. Most treatments I do will involve one or two needles, sometimes attaching an electrode to involuntarily contract muscles. As mentioned before Acupuncture is optional as some people have phobias which are perfectly acceptable. Below are the main benefits of acupuncture.
1. Stress reduction: The needles have a calming effect on the central nervous system, the relaxation of the muscles allows a larger range of motion of the joints, freeing up movement. Sometimes we may use needles in the ear, face hands and feet. Patients report a large increase in calmness and well-being. Sometimes we may attach an electrode to the needle for extra stimulation. The electrodes stimulate the muscles to contract involuntarily, creating a deeper relaxation.
2. Pain relief: Headaches, tight shoulders and chronic low back pain can really benefit the sites of pain that are most common in chiropractic clinics. Partly we are desensitizing the area, reducing muscle tension and allowing the nervous system to improve the function of the area.
3: Headaches: There is a multitude of different types of headaches. Tension types are the one type of headache that seems to respond well to acupuncture. Certain muscle deep at the top of the neck under the skull can get tight, tired and become sensitized causing eye pain, frontal and posterior discomfort. We often find people who work at a desk get these tension-type headaches.
4: It feels good!: People can feel as we mentioned relaxed, calmer which in turn improves sleep and well-being. People often report feeling fresher with more energy.
5: Ankle Sprains: Ankle sprains can cause a lot of pain and swelling. The swelling is the own body’s natural way of immobilizing the area of damage. It’s a clever mechanism but the swelling can linger for months and in some cases years. This is normally due to not doing the right exercises and resting for too long. Acupuncture is very good at reducing the ankle swelling, improving blood flow and increasing increased range of motion. It is also great for pain relief.
How long does acupuncture treatment last?
With most sessions, they only normally stay in for three minutes. This is enough time to reduce muscle tension, relax the area and reduce pain. In some cases for say stress relief, they can stay in for up to forty minutes. With the shorter treatment time, we add other treatments such as stretching, mobilizations and many others.
How many treatment sessions do I need?
It is always patient dependant. Some people may come in once a month to de-stress. If we are treating a chronic issue then we would normally to 4-6 treatments. At that point we do a case review, assess what pain reduction has been achieved and discuss with the patient if they would like to continue, staggering down the treatment frequency or if they feel they can manage it themselves. Treatment is never a hard sell or pushed upon, we want to work with patients as a team where they have a say in their health. Research has found this has positive outcomes with chronic pain.
Do I need to prepare for acupuncture?
Not particularly. Gowns are provided if needed but people are fully clothed in most cases. We do not needle in sensitive areas and patient dignity is always paramount. All we ask is to come with an open mind and be willing to work with us to give the best care.
Acupuncture contraindications (are there any people at risk)?
Acupuncture is suitable for most people. However, there are circumstances where acupuncture treatment would not be suitable for the following.
Certain acupuncture points during pregnancy.
Someone who has uncontrolled movements such as Parkinson's.
Needling into any kind of swelling, wounds, moles and skin issues such as eczema (affected areas).
Areas of spinal instability
Certain areas of anatomy for people taking blood thinners.
Special care needs to be taken into consideration with acute stroke, areas of skin irritation, patients with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, pregnancy, hemophilia.
How can I book a treatment?
Here a Corbin chiropractic there are a few options to book. You can ring us on 02920564111, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can book online: Here
You can see the prices: Here
Hempel S, Taylor SL, Solloway MR, Miake-Lye IM, Beroes JM, Shanman R, Booth MJ, Siroka AM, Shekelle PG (2014). "Evidence Map of Acupuncture". VA Evidence-based Synthesis Program Reports. Department of Veterans Affairs. PMID 24575449