Physiotherapists require postgraduate training to administer medical acupuncture for various musculoskeletal conditions. Western medical acupuncture is a therapeutic treatment modality that involves the insertion of fine, sterile, disposable needles. Medical acupuncture is an adaptation and blending of traditional chinese acupuncture (TCA) and western medicine, using anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and evidence based practice. TCA practitioners choose acupuncture points (needle locations) differently than western medical practitioners. Traditional Chinese medicine uses an eastern system of diagnosis, which looks very different from a western physical examination. Medical acupuncture practitioners base their location of acupuncture points on an anatomical basis. However, medical acupuncture courses teach the concepts and philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine. They also teach a variety of therapeutic TCA points. This blend of information from both systems helps provide the medical acupuncture practitioner with knowledge to choose points that are therapeutic for the patient.
The Chinese have used traditional acupuncture for centuries. It is a system that has been used to diagnose and treat disease. It is based on the concept that illness is believed to be cause by an imbalance of equal and opposite forces called yin and yang in the body. This flow of energy in the body is called Qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi flows through 14 major channels in the body, including 12 meridians plus two extraordinary channels. Traditional acupuncturist insert needles into specific points along these meridians to either increase or decrease Qi, with the objective to balance the yin and yang and restore health.
Medical acupuncture has various biochemical and physiological effects on the body to help decrease pain, improve function, reduce muscle tension and inflammation. Stimulating acupuncture points has a physiological effect on the nervous system and the brains pain centers. It can also improve circulation and the immune system. Acupuncture stimulates the release of our body’s natural pain killing opiates called endorphins, which are neurohormones, this can have a significant analgesic effect. Acupuncture can also have an anti-inflammatory effect, thereby reducing swelling, and tenderness, increasing range of motion and decreasing pain.