What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a therapeutic practice that originated in China thousands of years ago.

Chinese theory holds that the body’s life energy, called Qi, travels around the body in pathways called meridians or channels. Our health is dependant on Qi moving in a smooth and balanced way through the meridians beneath the skin that connect the interior and exterior of the body, and the internal systems to each other. If Qi is blocked or interrupted illness can result.

Acupuncture aims to bring all systems into balance by inserting fine presterilised needles at specific points along the meridians. It is a means of helping the body to heal itself.

How does it work?

Western research has shown that acupuncture causes a release of endorphins, the body’s naturally produced painkillers. It also has beneficial effects on the body’s immune and endocrine systems, and has profound neurophysiological effects.


What does treatment entail?

On the first visit general health is assessed with a detailed case history. For a generalised, systemic problem, it is standard practice to check pulses on both wrists and look at the structure, colour and coating of the tongue. Systemic treatments will involve using points on the body and all limbs.

For an isolated, localised joint problem, checking pulses and tongue may not be necessary, and treatment points are generally close to the affected area only and not elsewhere on the body.

Certain conditions are best treated using ear acupuncture points – auricular acupuncture.

It is vital for the practicioner to know if the patient suffers from any blood transmittable diseases – HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis, etc or is on anticoagulants. It is necessary to inform the practicioner also if the patient is pregnant or possibly pregnant as some acupuncture points are contraindicated during pregnancy.


What does it feel like?

Acupuncture needles are very fine and solid, with a diameter between 0.25mm to 0.45mm – about the thickness of a human hair. A slight, momentary pricking sensation is felt as the needle penetrates the skin. After needle insertion most people feel a dull ache, tingling, or a heaviness or numbness around the area where the needle is.

Needles are left in place for 20 – 40 minutes or so, and may be occasionally manipulated by the acupuncturist. During treatment many patients feel heaviness in their limbs or a pleasant feeling of relaxation.

Removal of needles causes no discomfort. Minor bleeding may sometimes occur or on occasion a small bruised area may develop near a needle site – this will clear in a few days similar to any bruise. Some facial acupoints may bruise after needling as these are very superficial.

What happens after treatment?

Some people experience relief of symptoms after one treatment, while others require several treatments to experience any benefits. Most people describe actual treatment itself as relaxing and calming.


How many treatments are necessary?

The number of treatments depends on the nature of the condition, the patient’s overall health, how long the condition has been present, and the individual response to treatment.

Usually if a condition is going to respond results are expected in 4 – 6 treatments. Acupuncture treatments have a cumulative effect with each treatment building on the effects of previous treatments.


Does acupuncture have side-effects?

No – acupuncture is about re-balancing the body’s energy and quite often a sense of relaxation and general wellbeing results after a course of treatment. Other conditions may resolve or become less bothersome while undergoing treatment.


What conditions can be treated?

  • Arthritis, O.A. and R.A.
  • Menstrual problems
  • Acute or chronic musculoskeletal problems
  • General fatigue, malaise
  • Headaches, migraine
  • Colds, sore throat, sinus problems
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stress, anxiety
  • Digestive problems
  • Facial paralysis
  • Dry mouth, - idiopathic or post chemo or radiotherapy
  • Miscellaneous other conditions.


How are patients referred?

Referrals are accepted from SIVUH Consultants or Physiotherapists. It is necessary to discuss the referral in advance to ensure it’s appropriateness and likely benefit to patient.

This service is provided as an outpatient physiotherapy treatment. As the acupuncture service is growing continuously appropriate referrals only would be appreciated.


Who to contact?

Trish O’Gorman, Senior Physiotherapist, Licentiate in Acupuncture.

021- 4926165

Page last updated: 25/04/2017

South Infirmary

Victoria University Hospital

A teaching hospital

of University College Cork