Acupuncture is a form of treatment that originated in China. It involves the insertion of fine needles into the body to relieve pain, decrease inflammation and improve physical function. Ancient Chinese practitioners believed that the body contained channels of energy, or meridians. If energy was unable to move freely in these channels, sickness and pain would arise. By inserting acupuncture needles it was thought that the movement of energy would be restored and optimal health would return.
Today, acupuncture is viewed a bit differently by western cultures. Healthcare providers such as physicians, physiotherapists and dentists have studied acupuncture and use it in their practices. Scientific research into the mechanisms of acupuncture has found that when acupuncture needles are inserted into the body, the nervous system undergoes a chemical change. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin become elevated during and after an acupuncture treatment. As well, acupuncture has been demonstrated to cause the body to produce pain relieving opiates — “endorphins” — in the brain and bloodstream. These chemical changes are thought to be among the underlying mechanisms for the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effect that acupuncture produces.
In a physiotherapy setting, an acupuncture treatment is delivered by a physiotherapist who has received additional postgraduate training in acupuncture. The treatment involves the insertion of a small number of needles — even as few as one or two. These needles are positioned in areas that correspond to the client’s injury, as well as the nerve supply to the area being treated. Medical research has shown that physical ailments such as tennis elbow, osteoarthritis, neck pain, low back pain and headaches respond positively to acupuncture treatment.