Acupuncture treatment involves fine needles being inserted through the skin and briefly left in position. Sometimes manual or low voltage electrical stimulation is applied to assist the process. The number of needles varies but may be only two or three. The practitioner will assess each patient's case and treatment will be tailored to the individual.
Treatment might be once a week to begin with, then at longer intervals as the condition responds. A typical course of treatment lasts 5 to 8 sessions.
Acupuncture stimulates the nerves in skin and muscle, and can produce a variety of effects. We know that it 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.
There is some scientific evidence that acupuncture has a beneficial effect for a number of health conditions.
Currently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for chronic lower back pain, chronic tension-type headaches and migraines. NICE makes these recommendations on the basis of scientific evidence.
Systematic reviews carried out by The Cochrane Collaboration have found there is some evidence acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on the following conditions:
- Chronic lower back pain
- Tension-type headaches
- Nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy
- Nausea and vomiting after surgery
- Neck pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)