Acupuncture involves very thin needles being inserted into the skin into specific points. Acupuncture can be used to bring blood flow to the area of injury to relax tight muscles, or to stimulate inhibited muscles. A contemporary medical approach may be used that involves electroacupuncture. All of our chiropractors and physiotherapists practice using acupuncture to enhance their practice style. Click here to learn more.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine in which thin needles are inserted into the skin. It can be used for a wide array of conditions from headaches, neck pain, tennis elbow, lower back pain, knee pain, ankle sprains, and the list goes on. The points used are determined by the practitioner based on their examination and according to their practice style.
Acupuncture is all about blood flow. The needles bring blood to the area through vasodilation and thus, bring more oxygen along with it. Oxygen in turn, helps in the healing process by modulating pain and decreasing sympathetic activity.
When there is an injury, inflammatory substances are released in the area. If there is prolonged inflammation, muscles can become fibrous and tight. When a muscle is tight, it can cause compression of blood vessels and decreased blood flow, leading to pain or a decrease in joint mobility. Over time, this injury can also cause weakness and inhibition. You can see how increasing blood flow can be very beneficial.
There are many health care practitioners that can perform acupuncture. An acupuncturist is a person who obtains a specific degree in acupuncture and therefore they can use that title. Chiropractors, on the other hand, take additional courses outside of their regular curriculum in order to be certified to perform acupuncture. In this sense, acupuncture is used as another modality, or tool, used to treat the condition, similar to using a laser as part of a treatment.
Practices & Theories
There are various theories and practices of acupuncture. One main approach is using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM acupuncture is based around the concept that the body’s vital energy, qi, circulates through channels called meridians that flow to all areas of the body. This approach uses named points to balance the body’s qi. This is why a point used in your hand or foot for example, could be used to help a headache or pain elsewhere in the body.
The style of acupuncture that I use is called Functional Integrated Acupuncture. This incorporates components of TCM and a contemporary medical approach. Depending on the patient’s needs, either method can be effective in treating pain.
Acupuncture points can be identified through resisted muscle testing. These tests can expose any muscle imbalances, weakness or inhibitions. Muscle inhibition is when the nerve that causes a muscle to contract (flex) can no longer function at it’s optimal capacity. One way to think about inhibited muscles are that they are ‘turned off’ and we can use acupuncture to ‘turn them on’. Electroacupuncture can be used to activate inhibited muscles by adding an electrical current between the needles to stimulate the muscle, causing contractions.
What to expect
Depending on your diagnosis and comfort level, acupuncture may or may not be required or recommended. The number of needles and size of needles would depend on your condition and the area of the body. As the acupuncture provider, I ensure the area is sanitary and a new needle is used for each point. You will feel a small pinch as the needle is inserted, but after the initial pinch, there should not be any pain. If electroacupuncture is necessary, small clips are attached to the ends of the needles and the stimulation unit will be turned on. A typical acupuncture treatment lasts between 15-20 minutes.