Based on an ancient Chinese practice, acupuncture involves the insertion of hair-thin stainless steel needles in and around specific points on the body. Traditionally these points, or meridians, are thought to be channels of a life force known as Qi (pronounced ‘chee’) and traditional practitioners believe that people can become ill if Qi cannot flow freely through the body. They believe that acupuncture helps to replenish and strengthen the flow of Qi and in doing so restores health. However, acupuncture is also used in contemporary, Western medicine as research has shown that the insertion of acupuncture needles stimulates nerves under the skin and within muscles that cause the body to produce pain-relieving endorphins.

How does acupuncture work?

Once the acupuncturist has positioned the needles, they can stay in place for anything from several minutes to upwards of an hour depending on the location, depth and severity of the pain being treated. During the process the needles can be twirled, warmed and mildly electrified in order to intensify the effect of the treatment, although it is not essential. It has been noted that courses of regular acupuncture sessions create longer lasting and more effective pain relief than a single treatment session. Throughout a course of acupuncture, the acupuncturist will incorporate different needling techniques and acu-points in order to stimulate multiple nerve combinations, monitoring the patient’s response and personalising their treatment to produce the best pain relief for them.

Why would I need acupuncture?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence currently recommends courses of acupuncture as treatment for persistent lower back pain and chronic headaches or migraines, although is it often used to relieve joint, neck and jaw pain as well as pain associated with operations, digestive and menstrual disorders. Some practitioners also offer acupuncture as treatment for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and insomnia.

When carried out by a qualified professional, acupuncture is incredibly safe, although some people may experience mild side-effects for a short time after treatment. Patients may experience pain, bleeding or bruising around the treated area whilst other reactions can include nausea, dizziness and sometimes brief worsening of pre-existing symptoms, however these side-effects can lessen with regular treatment, just as the duration and depth of pain-relief increases. The number of treatments required can vary greatly depending on the patient’s condition and their response to the acupuncture itself; it can take several treatments, sometimes up to ten, before any benefit is felt which does not make acupuncture particularly useful if experiencing pain whilst traveling. It is also important to allow yourself time to rest after treatment and not to overexert yourself. Whilst you may feel calm and relaxed it is a good idea to have someone with you who can help you in case you begin to feel faint. If you are already taking medication for a pre-existing condition, it is very important to continue as whilst acupuncture can help with pain-relief it is not and should never be regarded as a cure.

What should I do if I need acupuncture?

If you are interested in acupuncture treatment while abroad, TripMedic can arrange consultations with qualified professionals nearby in your own language.

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