Medical acupuncture or ‘dry needling’ is a therapeutic technique that involves inserting fine needles into certain points across the body, to encourage healing and pain relief. Also referred to as 'western acupuncture', the practice differs from the ancient Chinese practice it derives from.

Western medical acupuncture is the use of acupuncture following a medical diagnosis. It involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles of the body.

This results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins. It's likely that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects experienced with acupuncture.

Medical Acupuncture is also often used to treat musculoskeletal conditions and pain conditions, including:

  • Chronic tension-type headaches
  • Migraines
  • Chronic pain, such as neck pain
  • Tendon Issues
  • Dental Pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Muscular aches and pains

How its performed


An initial acupuncture session usually lasts 30-60 minutes and involves an assessment of your general health, medical history and a physical examination, followed by insertion of the acupuncture needles.

The needles are inserted into specific places on the body, which practitioners call acupuncture points. The needles used are fine and usually a few centimetres long. They should be single-use, pre-sterilised needles that are disposed of immediately after use.

Medical Acupuncture practitioners choose specific points to place the needles based on your condition. The needles may be inserted just under the skin, or deeper so they reach muscle tissue. Once the needles are in place, they may be left in position for a length of time lasting from a few minutes up to 30 minutes.

You may feel a tingling or a dull ache when the needles are inserted but shouldn't experience any significant pain. If you do, let your practitioner know straight away. In some cases, your practitioner may rotate the needles or stimulate them with a mild electric current (known as electroacupuncture).

Ask First If...

If you have a bleeding disorder, such as haemophilia, or are taking anticoagulants, talk to your GP before you have acupuncture.

Acupuncture is also not usually advised if you have a metal allergy or an infection in the area where needles may be inserted.

It's generally safe to have acupuncture when you're pregnant. However, let your acupuncture practitioner know if you're pregnant because certain acupuncture points can't be used safely during pregnancy.

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