Medical acupuncture or dry needling is a great treatment option for relieving pain and releasing tight muscles. This treatment involves the placement of very thin sterile needles into the muscle body. The needles are only 0.25mm thick, and they vary between 13mm and 75mm in length; and they are all single use.
The mechanism by which Acupuncture reduces pain is not fully understood, and there are a number of theories surrounding the exact mechanisms at play. The 4 commonly accepted mechanisms that occur during acupuncture are outlined below.
Theories on acupuncture
Localised effects: When the needle is inserted the affected tissue will release a chemical called ATP, which then breaks down into another chemical which creates adenosine. Adenosine binds to nerve receptors called nociceptors. Nociceptors are receptors that essentially communicate with the brain about pain. Adenosine blocks the nociceptors and therefore prevents the receptor from sending signals to the brain.
Segmental Analgesia: In the spinal cord there is a type of grey matter called the dorsal horn. The insertion of a needle into the painful area sends information from the nerve supplying the area, reducing the pain signal.
Extra-segmental Analgesia: Special nerve receptors called mechanoreceptors are stimulated by acupuncture, which signals the spinothalamic pathway to the central nervous system, where it interacts with the hypothalamus and other brain areas that are involved in pain modulation.
Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control: A loop in the nervous system that activates pathways that inhibit pain pathways, usually with the release of endogenous opioids, which help to reduce pain.
Benefits of acupuncture
- Reduced pain
- Improved mobility
- Decrease in muscle spasm and chronic tightness
- Trigger point release
I feel it is important to make you fully aware of potential side effects and risks of acupuncture. Acupuncture is incredibly safe, and serious incidents are rare (about 1 in 10,000), however there are some side effects that are common and not at all dangerous. Below I have listed side effects as well as complications.
Common side effects
- Dull aching or soreness
- Bruising of localised sites
- Small amount of bleeding immediately after needle removal (usually stops in under 30 seconds)
- Worsening of symptoms (this is quite common, and totally normal in most cases)
Rare side effects
- Fainting or passing out
- Emotional reaction
You should not drive after treatment if you have felt drowsy, faint or have passed out.
As mentioned before, serious problems rarely occur, and they are more common in practitioners that are not properly qualified. Complications include cardiac tamponade, pneumothorax and infection. Chances of infection are minimised with single use needles and maintaining a hygienic treatment environment.
For information on side effects and complications I will direct you to this research, which is very concise.
I am fully qualified and insured to provide medical acupuncture/dry needling, and I am licensed by Medway Council to carry out these treatments.
Below is a copy of my license to practice acupuncture.