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When Registered Physiotherapy Acupuncturists in New Zealand practice Traditional Chinese Acupuncture the needles they use are disposable, single use, pre-sterilised needles of varying widths and lengths. A number of needles may be used at each treatment and these are typically left in position for up to 30 minutes before being removed depending on the response required. Often you will have needles inserted away from the area that is causing the problem. A needle is manipulated until a Qi sensation is felt (a tingling or often warm heavy sensation that can spread away from the area of the needle). Moxibustion may be used to introduce warmth into the Acupuncture points, where an herb is burnt on the end of the Acupuncture needle. This has the effect of increasing the circulation, removing waste products, reducing muscle spasm and pain. Cupping is another technique where use of a glass or plastic cup is applied to the skin to assist in moving Qi or blood stagnation.
When Registered Physiotherapy Acupuncturists in New Zealand use Western or Medical Acupuncture the treatment looks very similar to that of TCM Acupuncture and produces the same Qi sensation. Sometimes a small electrical impulse may also be applied to the needles (electro-acupuncture) by attaching electrodes to the needles and a TENS machine (or specialised electro-acupuncture machine). These units are designed to deliver variable amplitudes and frequencies of electrical impulses. Low frequency electro-acupuncture is intended to contribute to the mechanism of pain reduction, especially stimulating chemicals from the brain which will aid analgesia, relaxation and sleep.
When physiotherapists in New Zealand use Dry Needling (Trigger Point Acupuncture), the acupuncture needle is placed into the trigger point in the affected muscle and moved until a twitch is felt in the muscle, the twitch may reproduce the patient’s symptoms. The patient may feel the twitch, but should note reduced pain and improved motion in the area. More than one trigger point may be needled in a session and the needles are generally not left in place. The muscle may then be stretched to improve the length of the muscle. Heat or ice packs may also be applied after treatment to help relieve post-treatment soreness. As this is a very strong stimulation of the nerve endings, the patient will usually feel a very strong aching sensation. There will sometimes be post-treatment aching which can continue up to 48 hours after treatment. Your physiotherapist will tell you how to deal with any post-treatment soreness.
Acupressure does not involve the insertion of needles, instead the Physiotherapist places pressure over acupuncture or trigger points in order to relieve muscle tightness or to stimulate QI flow and balance the body. The amount of pressure used varies according to the condition and requires trained, sensitive hands. It is often used with sensitive patients, patients with a needle phobia, children or frail patients.
Laser is the acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation and the use of lasers to effect treatment is known as low-level laser therapy. Laser stimulation may be used to affect any acupuncture treatment for which needles are typically used. It is particularly suited for nervous patients, children, sports injuries, sensitive areas and ears.