Alli's Place

Where Alli shares her thoughts and feelings…

Acupuncture, what do I think now?

Well I said I would update my blog once I had researched a bit about acupuncture and had a few sessions and say whether my opinion had changed from sceptical…

In summary the jury is still out and I am still sceptical but probably a bit less scaeptical than I was.

What exactly has it involved?
Once my physio has done some intial progress checks and some manipulation to loosen things up he washes his hands and then get the needles out. He has always used four and these have been inserted in my lower back, in the area that I have problems, two either side of the spine in a kind of square. I then lie there while we have rather random conversations (we seem to be good at talking about really strange things which is often quite funny) then after a few minutes he “tweaks” the needles. I think he kind of twiddles them a bit. Then after a few more minutes he takes them out and as he usually wipes my back I assume there is a little bit of bleeding but nothing noticable by me. Generally it is fine and no big deal so I am not bothered by it. I must add though that I am not bother by needles and don’t mind injections or blood tests at all (ok so I am one of those freeks that likes to watch and I can’t watch this and if I am honest I would rather watch the needles go in).

What have I been feeling?
It generally doesn’t hurt and when it does it is one of those days when everything is feeling more tender anyway so it seems logical that it would hurt more then. The sensation of the needles going in varies from feeling virtually nothing to feeling like someone is pressing a bruise that then triggers twinges down my leg. The twinges usually happen when the needles on the other side of my spine have been inserted which to me seem strange My physiotherapist has explained that the nerves don’t just run down the go across the back as well so it isn’t as strange as I think it is aparently. I get the same sensations when he does his tweaking.

So what should it feel like?
This article describes different sensations that people have described but it vaguley says that along as it isn’t sharp that is ok which is not exactly helpful and it is this kind of vaguness that makes me sceptical.
A different article states “There is a unique sensation you should experience when you have acupuncture. It’s best described as a dull ache or a tingle followed by a dull sensation. It is essential to get this to know you’re having acupuncture rather than just a needle being stuck into some part of your body.” But I am not sure I am feeling that…

Wondering how to tell if acupuncture is working?
This article talks about improved sleep, being les stressed, having more energy, being more intune with emotios and having a more natural digestive system. Well some of these sound like the sort of fluffy fuzz I hate “oh yes I am more in tune with my emotiions” – where is the bucket! I do however admit that I am sleeping better, I am being woken by pain in the night less frequently that I was say 3 months ago but whether that is due to the acupuncture, the manipulation or my improved flexibility I wouldn’t like to say.

So do I think it is working?
I am not convinced. I guess I am still keeping an open mind. I have, like I said, noticed improvements; I generally sleep better and my walking speed has increased and my distace is slowing improving, my swimming is speeding up and I can swim further than I could a couple of weeks ago. But do I think this is down to the acupuncture, the manipulation or a combination of the two, well I am not sure and as I don’t have anything to compare it to in a scientific experimental way I am really un sure. At my last session we didn’t have time for acuputure so we just did manipulation and then talked about excersises and my physio did some other stuff so did I feel differnet after that instead of normal, I guess I did, as it I was a bit more uncomfortable the next day than I have been. So you could say that show the acupuncture does something or you could say that was because I was more stiff when I went in… oh who knows…

All I can say is generally I am improving and whatever is adding to that is good and my phsyio clearly believes in the acuputure and I trust him, but hey I am still somewhat sceptical 😉

By the way this is a good write up about about acupunture in general and as Kevin is my physio I recommend a read of that 😉

Some other interesting links…
There is plenty of information out there both for and against.
British Acupuncture Council has this to say about back pain and acupuncture.
The NHS offers acupuncture for some conditions, lower back pain being one of them. There must be sufficient evidence for NICE to recommend it. There is information from the NHS here.
The National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine has this to say. Basically they say research suggests it is useful for pain relief.
This article sets out to claim that acupunctures benefits are a myth. It suggests that “acupuncture is no better than a tooth pick for back pain”
The British Medical Journal has some articles, I can’t access them but the abstracts suggest that there should be more investigations.

Anyway there is lots of information around but my view is that it doesn’t seem to be particularly risky and I certainly haven’t had any bad effects from the sessions I have had so I remain open to giving it a go.

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