Acupuncture and Physiotherapy

I recently completed my second level course through the Acupuncture Foundation of Canada Institute (AFCI), and was humbled at the complexity and versatility of this treatment method within the scope of physiotherapy.

During the course of the weekend, we subjected ourselves to becoming pin cushions as we worked through various acupoints through out the body. By Monday morning, I woke up exhausted, stuffed up and completely lethargic. After surviving the day, I made it an early night, blaming the weather and busy weekend for my less than ideal state of mind.

Tuesday morning came around, and I woke up lighter, happier, and incredibly well-rested.  I noticed during my commute to work that my usual dull back ache did not decide to join me for the drive. My feet felt lighter, my energy levels stayed up for the entire day, even my digestion seemed to have improved! Now, I can not accurately pin-point (excuse the pun)  these positive feelings directly to all the acupuncture that I experienced over the weekend, but something must be said for a form of medicine that has been around for over 2000 years…

ImageAs a physiotherapist, my brain automatically wants to focus on the western mind set of treating the injury from a neuro-anatomical perspective, and will pick my acupuncture points based on the location of the injury.  A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner or acupuncturist, on the other hand, would treat the same condition from a very different perspective, utilizing acupoints located on meridians that run up and down our entire body.  Therefore, a general, tension-type headache can be successfully treated with acupuncture from an anatomical approach by stimulating points along our scalp and neck to release tension in those muscles. However, if we were to put on our TCM caps for a second, we could also help affect that headache by inserting a needle between our first and second toe as well as in between the first and second finger…all thanks to the meridians!

So, how can acupuncture help you with your physiotherapy treatments?

First off, with any musculoskeletal injury, our general goals in physiotherapy are to control pain, reduce inflammation and restore strength and function  so that you can continue kicking the ball with your kids, maintain your golf handicap,  and take the stairs at work (which we all do everyday, right?!) Well, the goals of acupuncture are very similar:

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Goals of Acupuncture:

1. Control pain

2. Resolve inflammation

3. Provide tissue regeneration

4. Restore physiological function

5. Normalize autonomic nervous system (resets the system to allow you to heal)

As Physiotherapists, we practice anatomical acupuncture, which combines the TCM knowledge with western basic sciences in anatomy, physiology and pathology. Using the anatomical approach, we can stimulate both local points based on anatomical effects, as well as TCM points that may be located away from the site of injury.

Acupuncture is used as an adjunct to traditional physiotherapy. It can be used to relax tight muscles and promote relaxation to allow you to achieve a better stretch, or it can be used to decrease pain and inflammation. Some people see an improvement after one session, for others it may be 5-8 sessions to see a change in condition.

As amazing as this treatment tool is, it is important that you get properly assessed by a physiotherapist in order to determine whether you would benefit from acupuncture.  Until then, if that headache creeps up, try pressing into the web space between your thumb and index finger!

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