What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest recorded forms of medicine, and has been used in China for over 3,000 years.  It involves inserting very fine sterile needles into your skin and muscles at specific points. Physiotherapists use acupuncture primarily for pain relief.

How will it work for me?

There are several theories about how the effects of acupuncture are produced. There is evidence that it will help your body to release its own natural pain killing chemicals called endorphins, and that it stimulates the nerve fibres to modify the way that pain signals reach your brain.

It is also believed that acupuncture has an effect on the way in which your circulatory, nervous, glandular and immune systems work and will encourage your body to heal itself.

The traditional Chinese view is that when the body is in its healthy state Qi energy flows freely around the body in channels.  If there is a problem this energy stagnates, and the stimulation of appropriate acupuncture points frees this stagnation.

OK,will it hurt?

This is the most commonly asked question.  Whilst acupuncture is not always pain free, gentle insertion of the fine needles give rise to a sensation that is a temporary mild discomfort at most.  Sometimes an intense tingling or heaviness is felt which is thought to indicate the movement of energy.

Many people find that acupuncture makes them feel relaxed.

What should I expect?

Your physiotherapist will choose points for treatment based upon your symptoms, and sterile acupuncture needles will be carefully inserted. Once the treatment is completed, the needles will be removed and disposed.  Treatment involves the needles being left in for between 5 and 30 minutes.  The physiotherapist sometimes manipulates a needle when it is in place to encourage stimulation.  A typical course of treatment lasts 4-6 sessions.

Are there any side effects?

  • Drowsiness: You may feel tired after your acupuncture treatment.  This is only a temporary effect, but it is advisable not to drive immediately after your treatment if acupuncture affects you in this way.
  • Dizziness/ Fainting: This is very rare but can happen during or after treatment and is usually due to low blood sugar levels. You can reduce the risk of this happening by making sure you have eaten before your appointment.
  • Bruising at the needle site: This does occasionally happen (and can be more common if you are taking drugs to thin the blood) and is limited to the immediate area of the needle. (This may occur in less than 3% of patients)
  • Slight increase in pain: Your pain may feel worse after one treatment but this should last no longer than 48 hours: this is not unusual and can be a positive sign that you will respond well to treatment. Again, less than 3% of patients may experience this.

Why is Acupuncture such a good idea?

Research has shown that 70% of people gain relief from pain with acupuncture.  It does not work for everybody or every condition, but frequently good results are obtained when more conventional medicine has failed. The effects of acupuncture are cumulative; some people are good responders, while others may see a small improvement until they have had several treatments (this is more likely with a chronic condition).

… and is it safe?

The physiotherapist who will carry out your acupuncture has been specially trained to do so, and will only use special pre-sterilised disposable needles.


Acupuncture carries the same risks as any other medical procedure involving needles.  Your physiotherapist will explain these to you so that you can sign to consent to treatment.

The National Blood Transfusion Service approves acupuncture treatment provided by AACP members.

Can anyone have acupuncture?

There are some medical conditions and certain medications which may not be compatible with acupuncture, your physiotherapist will check this before starting acupuncture.

It is very important that you tell your physiotherapist if, during your course of acupuncture treatment, you are diagnosed with a new medical condition, or your medication changes.


Acupuncture treatment may not be suitable if you are pregnant (especially in the early stages of pregnancy). If you think you may be pregnant, or are planning to start a family, you must tell your physiotherapist.