Acupuncture treatments can often complement existing medical ones and often prove effective without the side effects that can accompany conventional therapies. In my blog below I highlight some the conditions where such treatments are often beneficial along with available references so that you can read about them yourself.
Migraine is a Western diagnosis for a complex and incapacitating headache disorder that very often runs in families. It’s characterised by recurring moderate to severe headaches that can be accompanied by various associated symptoms such as particular sensitivity to light/sound, nausea and vomiting.
NICE guidance states that migraine attacks typically last between 4 to 72 hours in adults and 1 to 72 hours in young people aged 12 to 17. They can have a really detrimental impact on a person’s health and wellbeing that affects their home and work or school life.
Drug treatments are often used as a preventative measure and for pain relief from acute migraine attacks.
Did you know?
According to the Migraine Trust, migraine is the third most common disease in the world, with 1 in 7 people experiencing various kinds of migraine headaches. This means over 8 million people in the UK are affected, which makes migraine more common than asthma, diabetes and epilepsy combined – and it affects three times more women than men.
Acupuncture for migraine treatment
In China, acupuncture has been used for many centuries to treat all types of headache. However, in recent decades many people in Western countries have become more aware of acupuncture as a helpful treatment for migraine and its popularity has increased.
The British Acupuncture Council view
Migraines are often thought to be caused by emotional strain, stress, hormonal imbalances, and lack of food and/or sleep, or by a reaction to some foods or medications.
Research has shown that traditional acupuncture can be very beneficial in the treatment of migraines as it tends to lessen the frequency and severity of attacks. NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends acupuncture for headaches and migraines.
Migraines can manifest in very different ways and a fully qualified acupuncture practitioner will want to know among other things exactly where the pain is located, what the nature of the pain is and whether the patient has any accompanying symptoms. An individual diagnosis and treatment plan is then tailored to the patient based on this information and on their general health history.
Have a look at the British Acupuncture Council research fact sheet on migraine for more information.
Back pain - an extremely common problem
In any two week period, 25 – 33% of all adults get some form of back pain. In fact, backache is second only to headache as the most common source of pain.
It affects over a million people in the UK, with 95% of them experiencing problems affecting their lower back. This is because the lower back bears the weight of the upper body and also twists and bends more than the upper back.
Most back pain resolves itself within a month to six weeks, but unfortunately for some people it goes on to become a long-term problem.
Acupuncture can help back pain by:
- Providing pain relief
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility
- For some people, reducing the need to use medication for back complaints
- Improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises and physical therapies like physiotherapy and osteopath.
Managing stress with Acupuncture
Stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand
Some things to remember:
- Everyone feels it from time to time, but people vary in how well they respond or recover
- Not all stress is bad – it can motivate people to prepare or perform and can be a life-saver in a dangerous situation
- Stress can negatively affect daily life e.g. mood, concentration, energy, appetite, sleep
- Long-term stress can harm your health. Over time it may contribute to serious problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression or anxiety
- Recognising the signs and taking practical steps to manage stress can reduce or prevent these effects
Acupuncture can help with:
- Decreasing heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Relaxing muscles
- Calming the emotions
The menopause process - how acupuncture may help to relieve symptoms
As a natural transition from one life stage to another
Perimenopause is the first phase in a natural life process where a woman’s ovaries gradually make less oestrogen and she becomes less fertile. Her body then makes its transition over a few months or years to the menopause, when her menstrual cycle and natural reproductive ability end. This generally happens between her mid-forties to mid-fifties, although about 1% of women experience premature menopause before the age of forty. After a year without periods a woman is regarded as postmenopausal.
The menopause can also be brought on suddenly by an underlying medical condition like Addison’s disease, or by certain medical treatments. These include surgery to remove the ovaries, some breast cancer treatments, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Given the hormonal changes that take place, most women experience some symptoms - very common examples being hot flushes, day/night sweats, sleep problems and mood changes. See NHS website for more details.For some women these are mild and manageable, whilst others may experience physical and emotional symptoms severe enough to reduce their quality of life. Women who have gone into sudden menopause may well be more severely affected.
Traditional acupuncture can help with symptoms
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a holistic therapeutic system used for thousands of years as an effective natural means of dealing with gynaecological issues, including those arising from the menopause process. It views problematic physical and emotional symptoms as signs that a woman’s body is out of balance.
Acupuncture follows a thorough diagnostic process to understand the nature of the imbalance. Acupuncture points are then selected carefully as part of an individualised treatment plan to correct it, helping to relieve symptoms and promote improvements to health and wellbeing. An acupuncture session may also include discussion about nutrition and lifestyle, where making some changes may be helpful in keeping symptoms at bay.