What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a treatment where very fine stainless steel needles are inserted into the skin.  It has been used in China for over 2000 years, being use in the UK by health professionals with great efficacy.

How does it work?

Research has shown that in combining acupuncture with other traditional physiotherapy treatment versus traditional physiotherapy care alone, it is more effective in treating musculoskeletal pain like low back pain long term (Thomas et al, 2005).

Milczarek, M, (2009), explains how in the UK there are two forms of acupuncture practised, Chinese traditional acupuncture and Western acupuncture.  Western acupuncture is the preferred choice for physiotherapists in the UK.   Western acupuncture focuses on neuroanatomy of the central and peripheral nervous system and the physiological response the body has to pain to achieve its results in decreasing a patients presenting complaint of pain (Longbottom, 2010). 

It has been shown that acupuncture works in reducing pain by creating local effects of releasing endorphins and increasing local circulation (Sandberg et al, 2003). Pain is also believed to be reduced by segmental analgesia. This is where sensory stimulus into the spinal cord will affect areas of shared innervation supplied from that spinal level (White, 2008).  Additionally acupuncture is a safe intervention which carries low risk of serious adverse effects (White, 2006).

Lastly how you emotionally feel about your pain can increase the intensity of the brains’ perception of pain.  Acupuncture has been shown to modulate the limbic systems sensory perception of pain, by decreasing brain activity in the sensorimotor cortex, thereby further reducing a patients pain symptoms (Hui et al, 2010).

In research acupuncture as also been shown to improve a patients sleep (Spence et al, 2004).

Most people are able to receive acupuncture but there are certain conditions where acupuncture may not be appropriate.  Sarah and Claire will ask you about any other medical conditions and medication to check your suitability before administering acupuncture.

Certain health conditions may stop you from being able to receive acupuncture or mean that its use should be used with caution.  For example if:

You are taking blood thinning medication

You have a pacemaker

You have an active infection

You are pregnant or trying to conceive

You have a needle phobia

You have experienced a fit, seizure, faint or you have epilepsy

You have a known metal allergy, specifically to stainless steel

You have low blood pressure

You have weakened skin for example, use of steroids, diabetes, open cuts, weak immune system

What can I expect when receiving acupuncture?

When you see your physiotherapist a full assessment will be done of your current symptoms and past medical history to ascertain if acupuncture is the right treatment of choice.

It is generally considered safer to have had something to eat in the previous two hours before acupuncture to make sure you not experiencing low blood sugar and are well hydrated. I wouldn’t write this as sometimes I acup as a spur of the moment so don’t check if they have eaten

The number of needles used, and the points of the body used during treatment very depending on your symptoms.  The needles are generally left in place between 10-20 minutes, and removed before you leave.  The needles may be stimulated by using electrical impulses if needed. This is called electro-acupuncture.

The overall number of treatments of acupuncture will depend on you and your condition. On average 6 sessions are used. Sessions are generally given weekly and usually after just 2 sessions it is clear whether acupuncture is the right treatment for you.

Does acupuncture have side effects?

Acupuncture is not considered painful and is not similar to having an injection or a blood sample being taken. When the fine needles are inserted you may feel a temporary sharp prickling sensation. After the needles have been removed you may feel temporarily light headed or deeply relaxed.  It should not feel unpleasant. You may experience small bruises or redness where the needles were inserted.  Any side effects tend to be mild and short lived.

The needles are individually packaged, sterile and disposed of safely after use.

Both Sarah and Claire are registered with the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) and therefore must adhere to the strict hygiene guidelines and attend continued training courses and educational updates that are required to stay on the membership register. AACP physiotherapists are also bound by a professional code of conduct through the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).


Total Care Physio, the Physiotherapists for Norwich & South Norfolk contact details:

South Norfolk Clinic
School Lane
NR14 6SL

01508 548535 or
07976 009524

Norwich Clinic
14 Jordan Close

07786 515646

More helpful information:




Total Care Physio are accredited to these professional bodies