We are welcoming Katie Farrell who joins the clinic as a full time associate physiotherapist as of today. In March and April Katie completed further training in medical acupuncture.
In this blog, Katie gives us an overview of what she learnt and and how these skills will benefit her clients.
Over to Katie...
Over the past two months, I spent two full weekends completing the British Medical Acupuncture Society’s Foundation Course here in Dublin. The course content was extremely useful and very interesting, and was taught by Dr Mike Cummings and Simon Coghlan, Practice Principal here at Mount Merrion Physiotherapy.
We discussed many topics around medical acupuncture, including safety, neurophysiological mechanisms, clinical aspects and how we can apply it into our own practice as healthcare professionals.
The course had both theoretical and practical elements, with lots of time for interactive discussions and questions throughout. There were 10 of us taking the course. This small number allowed for great learning opportunities, and time for one to one guidance and help when needed.
We got into the practical aspects almost straight away. There is brief initial pricking sensation as the needle breaks the skin, this sensation can be minimized depending on the speed of insertion. Then a comfortable dull, achy sensation can be felt when the needle is within muscle (what traditional practitioners would refer to as De Qi), or sometimes no sensation is felt.
Lots of practical time throughout the course meant we could really focus on practicing each point taught to us. I was able to get used to different handling techniques and palpation, and get individualized feedback from the tutors as they supervised. Over the two separate weekends, and having practiced in between, I really noticed my confidence increasing.
We learnt a lot about acupuncture mechanisms of action, and the effects the technique can have on the body.
Medical acupuncture can:
- Encourage healing within the tissues by increasing local blood flow
- Have a pain relieving effect within the body; this is referred to as the ‘segmental effect’ of acupuncture. It inhibits pain signals arising from specific areas of the body and stimulates the body’s own pain suppressing mechanisms.
- Have a calming effect and improves well-being, by stimulating other parts of the brain, in particular the limbic system, which is the emotional center of the brain as well as the hypothalamus which modulates autonomic activity.
- Also be used to identify and effectively treat myofascial trigger points. Myofascial trigger points are tender ‘knots’ that develop within taut bands of muscle and can cause referred pain; they may also show a local ‘twitch’ on palpation. When the needling into a trigger point, it may reproduce a recognisable pain.
As health professionals, it is very important for us to understand and be aware of the different effects of acupuncture, as they can each be used for a different purpose. Having a complete understanding of this can help us individualise treatment, depending on our patient’s diagnosis.
On the last weekend, we also learned about electro acupuncture, which uses electrical impulses to stimulate the inserted needles. It can enhance the pain relieving effects of acupuncture on the body. It can be particularly useful in cases of chronic pain, as it can produce long lasting relief.
How can medical acupuncture benefit you?
Medical acupuncture is most effective in musculoskeletal conditions, such as myofascial pain syndrome (associated mainly with trigger points), osteoarthritis, lower back pain, neck pain, tennis elbow and other conditions such as muscle strains. I found it very useful to learn about the effects of acupuncture in these diagnoses as clients with musculoskeletal injuries make up a large percentage of who I treat in the clinic.
Other painful conditions that can be helped buy acupuncture include, myofascial and tension headaches, and jaw pain. It has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of migraines.
We also touched on non-painful conditions where acupuncture can show good results, such as overactive bladder, irritable bowel syndrome and sinusitis. I found this very interesting, as I had previously been unaware of these uses for medical acupuncture.
I found the course highly beneficial and I am really looking forward to be being able to incorporate it into my clinical practice for the benefit of my clients.
By Katie Farrell BSc Physio, MISCP