What is the History Behind Acupuncture?

Acupuncture has been practiced in China for more than 3000 years, where their use of natural healing therapy has gained traction around the world. If you have heard of acupuncture before, you have likely been told or read something regarding the yin and yang, so what exactly is this? Essentially, yin-yang can be thought of representing a person’s state of being or behaviour and is necessary to be in balance for health. Therefore, when it is not in balance, an individual may feel pain or other symptoms. To restore this balance, acupuncture is used, where traditional acupuncturists are stimulating Qi (pronounced “chee”) to affect change. Let’s try an example to explain this phenomenon. An individual has been suffering from chronic low back pain for multiple years. Their yin and yang can be considered to be off balance or in disharmony, contributing to this reoccurring back pain. A health practitioner trained in acupuncture can use acupuncture needles in various locations to stimulate Qi in order to help restore the balance of yin and yang.

It has been reported that in the early 1970’s, an American experienced the benefits of acupuncture and described this experience in an article in the New York Times. Since then, acupuncture has been a part of North American treatment for various injuries and pathologies. In Western medicine, acupuncture is thought to have many different effects on the body. It is thought to restore blood flow to a specific location, which can help to simulate healing. It also can help to reduce inflammation in an area, which can in turn help to reduce pain. Similarly, acupuncture has been seen to have a neuromodulator effect, where multiple pain-relieving systems are activated to release neurotransmitters and ultimately reduce pain.

How is acupuncture applied?

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles through the skin and into tissues in different areas of the body. These needles are sterile and individually packaged. The physiotherapist will prep the area on your body for acupuncture by using an alcohol-based solution to ensure for a clean surface. Depending on the injured body part and area, there are different lengths and gauges of needles that your trained physiotherapist will determine is appropriate. The acupuncture needles are so thin, that there is generally minimal discomfort felt on insertion. Once inserted, the needle may stay in for approximately 10-30 minutes depending on your condition. Many people describe the feeling of the needle as a heaviness, fullness or distension, whereas others feel very little at all. It is also possible to continue to feel the previously mentioned sensation for up to 48-72 hours after treatment, however relief will be felt once these sensations have subsided.

What can acupuncture treat?

As stated in the title of this blog, acupuncture is a very versatile treatment tool, but why? This is because many studies suggest acupuncture effectively treatment multiple types of injuries and impairments such as:

  • headaches
  • migraines
  • smoking addiction
  • stress
  • depression
  • insomnia,
  • low back pain, neck pain,
  • osteoarthritis
  • tennis elbow

A study by Ezzo et al., 2001 studied the effectiveness of acupuncture on knee osteoarthritis. Many of us either suffer or know someone who has suffered from osteoarthritis. There is currently no cure, so therefore treatment is to manage the condition, whether it is pain or functional impairments. In the study, they looked at comparing the use of acupuncture versus sham acupuncture at reducing knee pain in those suffering from osteoarthritis. It was found that acupuncture was in fact beneficial at reducing pain in those with knee osteoarthritis. There was also some evidence in the improvement of function (i.e. going up and down stairs).

Who can provide acupuncture?

There are specific health care professionals who have taken specialized training in providing useful and sage acupuncture. Here at South Simcoe Physiotherapy, all of our physiotherapists are specially trained in providing acupuncture.


What can I expect with acupuncture treatment?

As previously mentioned, different people with experience different sensations with acupuncture, ranging from nothing at all to a heaviness or fullness feeling around the needle. The frequency of treatments and relief felt by the person will differ from person to person. Many people feel relief in their first treatment, where others require multiple treatments to experience a benefit. This is generally due to the nature of the injury, for example an acute injury may notice benefits in the first treatment or even after a couple of treatments. In comparison a chronic condition such as low back pain, may take multiple treatment sessions to begin to notice a difference. Here at South Simcoe Physiotherapy, it is a important treatment tool that practitioners use to help you to feel better and get back to the things you enjoy doing.

If you have more questions or clarification regarding acupuncture, one of our health care practitioners would be happy to speak with you.

If you are suffering from an injury that has not gotten better, or simply wanting to try acupuncture, let your health care practitioner know, or call the South Simcoe Physiotherapy today!



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