Western medical acupuncture is a therapeutic modality involving the insertion of fine needles; it is an adaptation of Chinese acupuncture using current knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology, and the principles of evidence-based medicine. Western medical acupuncture is principally used by conventional healthcare practitioners, most commonly in primary care and its practitioners regard acupuncture as part of conventional medicine rather than a complete “alternative medical system”.
The science behind Western Medical Acupuncture
It acts mainly by stimulating the nervous system, and its known modes of action include local antidromic axon reflexes, segmental and extra segmental neuromodulation, and other central nervous system effects. There is well-established evidence that acupuncture increases the body’s release of natural painkillers – endorphin and serotonin – in the pain pathways of both the spinal cord and the brain. This modifies the way pain signals are received.
It is mainly used to treat musculoskeletal pain, including myofascial trigger point pain. The clinical effects on musculoskeletal pain are best explained by inhibition of the pain pathway in the spinal cord and by activation of the descending inhibitory pain pathways from the brain. There are clearly other actions of acupuncture on the central nervous system that remain to be fully explored.
Imaging studies with functional MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) scans have shown that acupuncture stimulation can reach important areas deep within the brain and have provided good evidence of effects on various brain centres involved in pain control.
The effectiveness of Western Medical Acupuncture
Results from a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease types of pain that are often chronic such as low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis/knee pain. It also may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches. Therefore, acupuncture appears to be a reasonable option for people with chronic pain to consider. Numerous studies have also shown that acupuncture is effective in many non-pain conditions (see conditions treated).
Acupuncture is gaining more popularity worldwide as an effective treatment modality for many health conditions. As acupuncture research keeps growing, many trials/studies have validated the benefits of acupuncture. Many health organisations have incorporated and advocate acupuncture as a treatment option in their guidelines for various conditions.
The safety and side effects of Western Medical Acupuncture
Relatively few complications from using acupuncture have been reported.
The most common side effect is sleepiness which is related to the body’s endorphin release following acupuncture. Hence it is advisable not to drive especially after the first session. You may experience a temporary mild exacerbation of the pain being treated which may last for around 24 hours. Occasionally a bruise may develop at the site of needling.
However other side effects, even though very rare have been reported. These
include infections, punctured organs and collapsed lungs. Adequate precautions and
training can minimise/avoid these.
Get in touch
Wycombe Medical Acupuncture Clinic
136 Cressex Road, High Wycombe,
Beaconsfield Medical Acupuncture Clinic
Doctor NOW, Little Hall Barn,
Windsor End, Beaconsfield,
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