Ask any one and they will at least be able to tell you that acupuncture has something to do with needles getting poked into your body. Ouch!
But did you know that there is a difference between traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture and medical acupuncture or dry needling as it is also called?
The experts at Cilliers and Swart Physiotherapy in Garsfontein gave us the low down on why this is one treatment we all have to try at least once.
What is traditional Chinese acupuncture?
The main difference between traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) acupuncture and medical acupuncture lies in the way that each approaches acupuncture and the philosophy behind the diagnosis and treatment. Practitioners of TCM believe that energy, known as qi, flows around your body in channels (also called meridians). With traditional acupuncture, the
diagnosis takes place after the flow of the qi has been evaluated. It is thought that equal and opposite properties (called yin and yang) become unbalanced, causing illness and other ailments. When undergoing acupuncture, the needles used aim to restore this balance.In TCM, small needles are inserted into the different points of the body. It is important to note that acupuncturists are trained in TCM, which should not be confused with Western medicine. The main goals of acupuncture are to promote healing and to relieve pain but acupuncturists can also help you understand the energy your body gives off.It’s all about the balance. In short, the body consists of 12 points called meridians. These points are the pathways through which a life force substance (energy) called qi flows. An acupuncturist will take down your medical history and inspect your body whereafter they will insert small needles into the body along these meridians – at the right points depending on where the imbalance of energy is. After all, the main aim of acupuncture administered by acupuncturists is to restore balance back into your life by changing the flow of qi.
How does it differ from Western medicine acupuncture or dry needling?
Although well researched and scientifically proven, it is important to note that true acupuncture techniques used by reflexologists are not the same as the medically approved “dry needling”. Unlike TCM, dry needling requires the insertion of fine stainless steel needles through the skin into the underlying deep structures such as muscles, fascia and ligaments. These points are determined by a physiotherapist after thorough assessment of the underlying tissue. Acupuncture or dry needling are very effective in stimulating the body to heal itself and to relieve acute or chronic pain.In medical acupuncture, your practitioner will make a diagnosis using the same techniques as those of conventional medicine. Needles are inserted at certain points identified by the practitioner during his screening and assessment of your body. Acupuncture needles stimulate nerve endings and alter the way your brain functions but it also activates an immune response localised to the insertion point which in return accelerates the healing of the tissue.
What are the effects of acupuncture?
– Accelerate healing of tissue
– Improve muscle range of motion
– Shorten recovery time
– Improve joint range
– Increase blood flow to tissue
– Loosen muscle tightness
– Improve muscle flexibility
How does the Western acupuncture affect the tissue?
When the needles are inserted into the injured tissue, the needle stimulates a chemical reaction called a cytokine reaction. Cytokines are a large group of proteins, peptides or glycoproteins that are secreted by specific cells of the immune system. Cytokines are a category of signaling molecules that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation and hematopoiesis. This reaction stimulates a localised inflow (influx) of inflammatory cells to the site of the needle’s insertion.The inflammatory cells include granulocytes – white blood cells that have small granules or particles. These granules contain numerous proteins that are responsible for helping the immune system fight off infection (viruses, bacteria). Neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils are three types of granulocytes.Neutrophils are white blood cells that play some very important roles in our innate immune system. They circulate around our body in the bloodstream, and when they sense signals that an infection is present, they are the first cells to migrate to the site of the infection to begin killing the invading microbes.Basophils appear in many specific kinds of inflammatory reactions, particularly those that cause allergic symptoms. Basophils contain anticoagulant heparin, which prevents blood from clotting too quickly. They also contain the vasodilator histamine, which promotes blood flow to tissues.Macrophages are versatile cells that play many roles. As scavengers, they rid the body of worn-out cells and other debris. Along with dendritic cells, they are foremost among the cells that present antigens, a crucial role in initiating an immune response. As secretory cells, monocytes and macrophages are vital to the regulation of immune responses and the development of inflammation; they produce a wide array of powerful chemical substances (monokines) including enzymes, complement proteins, and regulatory factors such as interleukin-1.Lymphocytes function: T cells and B cells are the major cellular components of the adaptive immune response. T cells are involved in cell-mediated immunity, whereas B cells are primarily responsible for humoral immunity (relating to antibodies).These chemical and hormonal reactions caused by the needles result in a cascade of immune system responses. All these cells rush to the area where the needles were inserted. Each of these cells have their own function to help with the healing of injured tissue.
What does acupuncture it feel like?
It feels like someone is pinching your skin. Definitely not like an injection but people do experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are
inserted and others feel no pain at all.Once the needles are in place, there should be no pain at all. Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is smooth (unlike hypodermic needles, these needles are not hollow or have cutting edges) for insertion through the skin, making it less painful than injections or blood sampling.
The risk of bruising and skin irritation is also less than when using a hollow needle. Physiotherapists always have to use sterile disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
What can you expect?
Depending on the structure and the depth that the therapist must “needle”, it can however be a bit uncomfortable. Keep in mind that the needles are inserted through the skin to the deeper layers.
When inserted into the body, the depth of the needles may vary, depending on which structure is targeted by the physiotherapist.When the acupuncture needles are inserted, they are left in place for between 15 and 40 minutes and often the physiotherapist will manipulate the needles so that you will feel a dull ache or numb sensation around their site of insertion. This sensation is called “De Qi” or “obtaining energy” and traditionally it is thought that “De Qi” may be an important part of the
treatment process as this suggests that the nervous system is correctly stimulated.
How long does this treatment take?
Treatments tend to last anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and depth of the structure being treated.
Like with most treatments there are mild to short-lived temporary effects to look out for:
– Discomfort when the needle is inserted
– Feeling faint
– Bruising or bleeding at the site of the needle
– Numbness over the affected area.
To book a consultation call 079-736-8465 or dial 083-296-7692 to speak to a physiotherapist. For more information about Cilliers and Swart Physiotherapy visit www.physiopretoria.co.za.