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Acupuncture: what it is and its main applications

Acupuncture is a diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive method belonging to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), widely used as an integration and complement to Western conventional medicine. Its application is extensive for various indications, particularly in pain management, but also for other functional symptoms such as nausea in the first trimester of pregnancy or secondary to pharmacological therapies, insomnia, symptoms related to menopause, and non-painful manifestations of chronic inflammatory diseases, with positive effects on patients’ health and, in collaboration with reference specialists, reduction of medication usage.

Acupuncture, What It Treats: Therapeutic Indications

In the field of osteo-articular and muscular pains, it is indicated for: low back pain, neck pain, pain related to tendon pathology (e.g., rotator cuff pathologies in the shoulder), epicondylitis, arthritic pain (e.g., hip or knee), myofascial syndromes, fibromyalgia. In all these conditions, acupuncture can be used alone or in combination with conventional pharmacological and physiotherapeutic treatments.

A vast body of scientific literature has also developed in the treatment of recurrent headaches, serving as a preventive treatment to control migraine episodes. It is used in the treatment of manifestations related to seasonal allergies, particularly pollen-related rhinitis and conjunctivitis, both acutely and as a prophylactic treatment.

In gynecology, it is widely used for controlling menstrual cycle pains and irregularities, treating pregnancy-related nausea and low back pain in various stages of pregnancy, a period during which reducing medication consumption is recommended, as well as assisting in procedures for treating infertility. Acupuncture treatment is also proposed for controlling symptoms related to menopause, such as insomnia and hot flashes. These are among the indications where acupuncture is most commonly used as an adjunct to conventional therapies proposed in our healthcare systems.

How Acupuncture Works

In more familiar terms to Western Medicine, acupuncture acts locally through two mechanisms:

Modulations occurring at the level of connective tissue, influencing the circulation of substances between body districts. Stimulation of small myelinated nerve fibers, causing local analgesia and desensitization to pain in the treated area. The same local stimulation would trigger a cascade action of pain impulse transmission pathways from the periphery to the brain, capable of modulating the influx of nociceptive information. Through this pathway, hormonal responses to stress are also influenced, accounting for therapeutic results in other clinical indications.

The main clinical effects of acupuncture are:

Analgesic Anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory Neuroendocrine regulation Action on muscle tone Vasomodulatory-trophic Action on the psychoemotional sphere Application Methods

The number of acupuncture sessions varies depending on the treated pathology and the individual patient’s response. It is recommended to practice 1-2 sessions per week, each lasting about 30 minutes. Benefits can be appreciated from the first treatments, while more significant improvement is usually seen by the sixth session. The total number of sessions depends on the patient’s response but usually does not exceed ten sessions to achieve a stable therapeutic result.

Contraindications

There are no absolute contraindications to treatment; however, it is advisable to assess, together with the doctor, the appropriateness in case of anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy and to communicate the possible pregnancy status beforehand for appropriate treatment selection.

Acupuncture at MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini”

At MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini,” Dr. Enrica Armienti, specialized in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and holder of a three-year Master’s degree in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine obtained at the Italo-Chinese Acupuncture School in Bologna, carries out her activity. For more information on acupuncture treatments for pain management and functional issues, please fill out the form below.

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