Medical Acupuncture Is A ‘Hands On’ Technique

acu handsonIn my view, to use medical acupuncture effectively, the needle becomes an extension of our fingers. Our fingers should begin the needling process by carefully palpating, becoming attuned to the patient's tissues, being responsive to feedback.

Such feedback may be a response from the tissues such as altered muscle tone, tension, thickening, congestion, bogginess, stringiness, stiffness, guarding and more. These are loose terms, more descriptive than scientific, not always reliable, but meaningful to the expert clinician.

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What does Medical Acupuncture and Exercise have in common?

acu exerciseMedical Acupuncture including Dry Needling helps ease pain, normalise muscle tension, and promotes tissue healing and repair1. It is also associated with an increase in brain serotonin levels1 which may partly explain how this technique often leaves my patients feeling in a better mood, more relaxed and at ease.

Similar feelings of well being are often felt after exercise, especially exercise which promotes muscle contractions2,3 such as PhysioPilates. This may be due to there being a physiological overlap between physical exercise and needling.

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Medical Acupuncture in Stroke Rehabilitation

stroke rehabI have found that clinically Medical Acupuncture (including Dry Needling) is effective in reducing muscle tone during the rehabilitation phase in those who have suffered from a stroke. It has become an integral part in my approach to treating hemiplegia.

The mechanism is most likely an inhibitory effect at the anterior horn cells when the hypertonic muscles are needled directly. The reason for the hyperactivity at the anterior horn cells, which in turn controls resting muscle tone, may be reduced proximal modulation of the anterior horn cell activity after a stroke, in others words less ‘top down’ control from the brain.

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Medical Acupuncture Mechanisms - Revisited With Prof. Thomas Lundeberg

(This post was originally posted on the 24th February 2014 and in light of new research has been updated on the 26th March 2017.)

To assist us in our understanding on the mechanisms of Medical Acupuncture I thoroughly recommend watching a recent presentation by a Professor Lundeberg. You can find the 23min video presentation at the bottom of this article.

In this post I offer some highlights from this presentation.

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Medical Acupuncture On The Wrong Side Of NICE

Medical Acupuncture on the wrong side of NICE

The last Cochrane review which considered the role of Medical Acupuncture (MA) in the treatment of Low Back Pain (LBP) was carried out by Furlan et al in 2005. In this review verum MA was shown to be efficacious (more effective than ‘sham’) in providing short term pain relief. A good result from research point of view.

The NICE guidelines for the treatment of LBP published in 2009 were partly based on the abovementioned review as well as the GERAC trial which showed MA (including ‘sham’) to be more than twice as effective as conventional treatment in the primary outcome measures. In the GERAC trial, verum MA was not shown to be significantly more effective than ‘sham’ needling however there was a small trend in favour of verum needling.

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