‘Acupuncture’ is a word derived from the Latin ‘acus’ (needle) and ‘punctura’ (to puncture). It is a form of alternative medicine and a key component of tradition Chinese medicine involving thin needles being inserted into the body. Acupuncturists are trained in acupuncture, and medical acupuncturists are medical doctors, osteopaths or dentists who have completed additional training in acupuncture. Acupuncturists treat a range of medical conditions, symptoms, and side effects, including chronic pain (headache, back pain, arthritis), nausea and vomiting, and substance withdrawal. Acupuncture is often used in combination with other therapies such as herbal medicine, dietary supplements, exercise therapy, and massage therapy.
You may need to see an acupuncturist if you are suffering from conditions such as persistent lower back pain, or chronic tension-type headaches and migraines. You may also need to see an acupuncturist if you are experiencing musculoskeletal conditions and pain conditions including chronic pain such as neck pain, joint pain, dental pain, or postoperative pain.
An acupuncturist can help you by relieving specific pains or illnesses that you may be experiencing. While acupuncture is not always based on rigorous scientific fact and sometimes there is less good quality evidence to draw any clear conclusions over the effectiveness of acupuncture, medical acupuncture works to stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and muscles of the body. This can help relieve any pain you may be experiencing because it results in the body producing natural substances such as pain-relieving endorphins.
When you see an acupuncturist you can expect that your session will last between 20 and 40 minutes, and involves an assessment of your general health, medical history and a physical examination followed by insertion of the acupuncture needles. Courses of treatment often involve up to 10 separate sessions, though this can vary depending on the type of problem or pain you are experiencing. You can expect that acupuncture needles will be inserted into specific places on your body, which acupuncturists call acupuncture points. You will also usually be asked to sit or lie down while this takes place, and possibly to remove some items of clothing so the acupuncturist can access certain parts of your body. The needles use are fine and are usually a few centimetres long. They should be single-use, pre-sterilised needles that are disposed of immediately after use.