Sunday, September 9, 2012

Understanding Medical Acupuncture Treatment
By:  Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

Acupuncture is a 2000-year-old Chinese treatment in which needles are inserted into specific points on the body.  The World Health Organization (WHO) lists approximately four-dozen different conditions that can legitimately be treated by acupuncture.   Acupuncture treatments can be particularly helpful for pain complaints such as:  muscular strains, arthritic pain, neck and low back pain, rotator cuff tendonitis, tennis elbow, migraine and tension headaches.

The term "Medical Acupuncture" refers to acupuncture performed by a licensed health care professional who has training in the health sciences.  Practitioners of Medical Acupuncture derive the concepts of disease, dysfunction, and healing from the western biomedical understanding of pathology, anatomy, physiology and biochemistry.  Under this model, the act of inserting an acupuncture needle into the body is believed to result in the following:

·         Pain Control - Pain-blocking substances are released locally and by the central nervous system to suppress the transmission of pain.
·        Inflammation Control - Natural anti-inflammatory chemicals are released locally, and inflammation control centers are stimulated in other parts of the body.
·         Blood and Lymphatic Flow - Enhancement of blood and lymphatic flow locally and throughout the body allows for the delivery of fresh oxygen and the removal of injury debris from the injury site.

The needles used for acupuncture are much smaller than a standard hypodermic needle.  These needles are solid, not hollow, and have a finely tapered point as opposed to a bevelled cutting-edge point.  The sensations felt during needle insertion range from feeling nothing at all, to mild tingling, to slight numbness/achiness, to small electrical pulsations distant to the site of insertion.  All these sensations typically subside once the needles are removed.  It is common practice nowadays for practitioners to use sterile disposable needles that are discarded following treatment.

As with any health intervention, there is always a potential for side effects and adverse reactions.  The good news is that acupuncture performed by an experienced and knowledgeable practitioner is relatively safe and infrequently yields minor side effects.  These may include but are not limited to: a slight discoloration at the acupuncture site that is temporary and not dangerous; minor bleeding; nausea; short-term fatigue or drowsiness; or a short-term increase in pain before relief sets in.  An experienced and knowledgeable acupuncturist aims to avoid treatment of certain points during pregnancy, over wounded or infectious areas, to individuals who are hemophiliacs, and to individuals who have needle phobia.

Medical Acupuncture treatments can be safely and successfully employed to help promote healing and recovery from pain complaints including muscle and joint injuries.  Acupuncture treatments can also be utilized in conjunction with other rehabilitative strategies such as exercise prescription, manual adjusting and mobilization techniques, and soft tissue therapy.  For more information visit www.nhwc.ca.

Dr. John A. Papa is a graduate of the McMaster University Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program.  This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.