Acupuncture has been used in the Far East for over 3000 years and was first introduced into Europe in the 17th Century. Because of widespread interest in the subject a lot of scientific research has been carried out in the Western world over the last 40-50 years and we now know much about how acupuncture works and the clinical applications.
What is (Western) Medical Acupuncture?
It is a therapeutic modality involving the insertion of fine needles for the treatment of various conditions. It is practiced by clinicians and uses our current knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology and the principles of evidence based medicine both for diagnosis and treatment.
How does acupuncture work?
The main therapeutic effects of acupuncture are achieved through stimulation of the nervous system. There is well established evidence that acupuncture increases the body’s release of natural pain killers like endorphins and serotonin – which are important in pain relief, healing and general well-being. In musculoskeletal pain, acupuncture inhibits the pain pathway in the spinal cord and activates the inhibitory pain pathway from the brain.
Brain imaging using advance techniques like functional MRI and PET scans have shown that acupuncture stimulation can reach important areas within the brain thus providing evidence of its effects on various brain centres involved in pain control.
The most important and widespread application of acupuncture is for pain relief, most commonly musculoskeletal pain and other chronic pain conditions. There is good evidence that it is effective in various chronic pain conditions like back pain, neck pain including whiplash injury, knee pain, shoulder pain etc. It has also been shown to be effective in nausea and vomiting, morning sickness, overactive bladder, irritable bowels, hay fever, chronic sinusitis and many women’s problems like painful periods and hot flushes.
Whitethorn Fields Mediclinic