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Acupuncture and Physiotherapy

Acupuncture is becoming more widely used and accepted throughout the medical community. Many physiotherapists offer acupuncture as a treatment modality as part of physiotherapy management.


What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture involves inserting fine needle into specific points located throughout the body to help relieve pain or have other therapeutic effects. There may be a mild aching sensation around the site of the needle, they are extremely fine and are often hardly felt.  There are many modern theories as to why acupuncture works and there has been much scientific research carried out to help prove these theories.

When physiotherapists in New Zealand use Acupuncture, they use 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. A needle may then be manipulated until a “de qi” sensation is felt (a tingling or often warm heavy sensation that can spread away from the area of the needle).

Pain relief may be immediate or develop over a few hours or days. Acupuncture often has a cumulative effect, with pain relieving affects building up over a series of treatments. There are some possible side-effects, mostly they are rare, but can include light-headedness, dizziness, tiredness, slight bruising or muscle aching after treatment. Your physiotherapist will discuss these with you before treatment.

What can acupuncture help with?

Acupuncture may be suggested by your physio for a variety of conditions. It is often used as an adjunct in the management of:

    • Acute and chronic injuries
    • Back and neck pain
    • Muscle and joint problems
    • Nerve pain
    • Headaches and migraines
    • Sports injuries

Qualified practitioner

In NZ acupuncture training for physiotherapists is at postgraduate level through a university however some physiotherapists choose to complete weekend courses which cover trigger point dry needling only (dry needling is the use of needles for therapy of muscle pain/ tension).

It’s advisable that physiotherapists who use acupuncture and /or dry needling as a treatment with patients have completed an appropriate level of training and are engaged in ongoing professional development activities. You should feel free to ask your physiotherapist about the level of training they have completed.

Physiotherapy New Zealand has a Special Interest Group - Physiotherapy Acupuncture Association of New Zealand (PAANZ) which provides on-going training for physiotherapists using acupuncture, as well as regularly publishing guidelines for safe acupuncture and dry needling practice.  If your physiotherapist is a registered member of PAANZ you can be assured they are appropriately trained to provide the best care.   PAANZ have an online database of registered physiotherapy acupuncturists that you can search.

Is Acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture, when provided by an appropriately trained physiotherapist is generally very safe. However with all treatments there is a small amount of risk. Your physiotherapist will discuss the risks associated with your specific treatment, and if necessary can discuss alternative treatment options with you. If you are feeling uncomfortable about a particular method of treatment, you have the right to consult another physiotherapist for a second opinion.


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