Medical acupuncture involves inserting fine solid needles into the body to achieve a therapeutic effect. Only health care professionals who already have knowledge and experience with respect to musculoskeletal anatomy, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy can learn medical acupuncture. In Alberta, physiotherapists must have authorization on their practice permit to use dry needles to provide patients with medical acupuncture.
How Will I Be Assessed for Medical Acupuncture?
Edmonton and area patients first receive a global physiotherapy assessment to identify the areas of pain and mobility restrictions that are potentially causing the persistent symptoms. We combine outcome measures, such as self-report tools, range of motion, and strength and nerve conduction tests, with the patient history, a visual analogue scale (0 to 10) rating of pain, and function and medication use.
What Are the Treatment Goals of Medical Acupuncture?
- Improve circulation to the local area to promote tissue healing.
- Relieve pain through the release of nerve transmitter chemicals.
- Contribute to an integrated treatment approach to achieve the client’s goals.
Natural Pain Relief from Endorphins
The acupuncture needle interacts with the layers of tissue at the area of insertion. This stimulates the nerves, which relay information to the front of the spinal cord to influence the “hypothalamic-pituitary” system. This system releases beta-endorphins into the blood and cerebro-spinal fluid in the brain. (Kho, Robertson; American Journal of Acupuncture, 1997: 25(4): pp 261-281.)
Blockage of Pain Information Transmission to the Brain
Acupuncture also causes the release of the chemical Met-enkephalin, which prevents the spinal cord cells from receiving the pain information. This is accomplished by neurotransmitters: serotonin and noradrenalin. The result of the treatment is an increase in the pain threshold for the client. Therefore, it requires more painful stimuli to get a reaction. This is part of the “Gate Theory of Pain Modulation.”
Informed Consent for Medical Acupuncture
Sherwood Park and area clients receive a detailed form highlighting the risks and benefits of medical acupuncture. You should discuss these with your physiotherapist prior to treatment. You can change your mind at any time and alternative therapies are available, such as laser acupuncture.
What Can I Expect from My First Medical Acupuncture Treatment?
We will choose your body position for treatment for comfort and access to the acupuncture points we will be needling. The acupuncture needle sites should not be painful once the treatment setup is complete. We will ask you to identify any painful areas and we will adjust the needle position accordingly.
Your first session can last from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on your treatment response. It is common to be tired after acupuncture and you may notice some autonomic nervous system responses, such as increased sweating.
What Is the Benefit of Using Electrically-Stimulated Needles?
We may add electrically-stimulated acupuncture needles after your first session to achieve longer-lasting pain relief and improved muscle function. This is determined on a case-by-case basis with an analysis of the clinical problems and treatment response to medical acupuncture.
Will My Benefits Cover Medical Acupuncture?
Acupuncture provided by a physiotherapist authorized to use dry needles is covered under physiotherapy benefits. Occasionally, your benefits may allow for billing under acupuncture. However, most extended benefit companies distribute their coverage according to the profession of the practitioner and not the specific treatment. You can contact your benefit provider for information about the specific policy as it relates to acupuncture coverage.
Why Choose Medical Acupuncture from a Physiotherapist?
We use medical acupuncture combined with physiotherapy to provide a more comprehensive treatment plan. Acupuncture will help you in achieving your pain relief and mobility goals.
- Based on modern research and clinical anatomy.
- McMaster University Medical Acupuncture program includes anatomy lab sessions to relate the acupuncture points and treatment rationale to the adjacent muscle, joint, and nerve tissue.
- McMaster graduates use ear acupuncture and electrical stimulation of needles.
- We use medical acupuncture to improve nerve, muscle, and joint function.
- Medical acupuncture is effective at relieving pain in multiple areas of the body.
For more information on acupuncture and how it may benefit you, please contact us.