Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that is often used to treat stiffness and pain. It involves the use of very thin needles to puncture the skin. The needles are placed in specific points around the body depending on the condition that is being treated. The placement points of acupuncture needles may also vary depending on the healthcare provider that you choose to see.
Acupuncture may be performed by acupuncturists, as well as physiotherapists. Only physiotherapists who are rostered to perform acupuncture with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario will be able to use acupuncture with their clients. In order to roster, physiotherapists must demonstrate they have the appropriate training and skills to safely perform acupuncture. Physiotherapists may also use slightly different points for needle insertion than acupuncturists, as their treatment techniques may be different.
While there will be significant overlap, acupuncturists often insert needles both close to and far away from the injury site. On the other hand, most physiotherapists will focus their needles around the injury site. While both methods can be effective, it’s important to note that some needles may be placed further from the area of concern but can still have a significant effect.
Acupuncture needles are inserted directly into muscle. Once placed into muscle, the needles will remain there for a period of time to allow the effects to take place.
Why is acupuncture so relaxing?
Many individuals experience relaxation during their acupuncture sessions. Acupuncture has been shown to have significant effects on the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system regulates involuntary physiological processes, such as heart rate and blood pressure.
The autonomic nervous system can be divided into 3 main components: the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, and the enteric nervous system. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system triggers a level of increased activity and attention, or a “fight or flight” response.
This would include an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure. On the other hand, activation of the parasympathetic nervous system triggers a “rest and digest” response. This includes a decreased heart rate and blood pressure. The enteric nervous system controls digestive functions, including muscle contraction/relaxation, secretion/absorption, and blood flow.
Acupuncture can have significant impacts on both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This means in some cases acupuncture could trigger a fight or flight response, while in others it could trigger a rest and digest response. For those experiencing a lot of relaxation from acupuncture, it may be related to a decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity or an increase in parasympathetic nervous system activity.
Does acupuncture make you bleed?
Acupuncture can sometimes cause bleeding. This typically depends on where the needles are inserted. While acupuncture needles are primarily inserted into muscle, there are small blood vessels that may be pierced during the treatment. If an acupuncture needle goes through a blood vessel, it can trigger some bleeding. In most cases you won’t feel anything, but in some cases you may feel a bit more pain.
There may also be some swelling and/or bruising after the treatment. Since there are so many small blood vessels throughout our body, bleeding cannot be completely avoided. Bleeding doesn’t always occur, but it is a common minor risk with acupuncture.
Even if there is bleeding with acupuncture, it doesn’t necessarily alter the effectiveness of the treatment. Acupuncture may still be effective regardless of whether or not you bleed. If there is bleeding, your healthcare provider will use a cotton swab to apply pressure to the area and stop the bleeding. If you’re uncomfortable with blood or needles, be sure to let your healthcare provider know. They will ensure you’re as comfortable as possible during your treatment session.
Are acupuncture needles painful?
Acupuncture needles are not usually painful, but can often trigger a heaviness sensation. Most acupuncture needles are inserted into parts of the body that have a lot of muscle or fat.
In some cases, the needles may be inserted into a body part that doesn’t have much muscle or fat. These acupuncture points are more likely to trigger pain, as they will generally be more sensitive areas of the body. For example, acupuncture needles placed into your glutes will likely not be painful, but may elicit a heaviness sensation. On the other hand, acupuncture needles placed into your hands or feet may be slightly painful, as there is less muscle and fat in these regions and they are more sensitive. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know if the acupuncture needles are causing you pain. They can always be adjusted to suit your needs.
Still not sure what to expect with acupuncture? Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on www.strivept.ca to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury.
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance