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Acupuncture for Treatment of Facial
Pain
What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the stimulation of special points on the
body, usually by the insertion of fine needles.  
Acupuncture
points are seen to correspond to physiological and
anatomical features such as peripheral nerve junctions and
diagnosis is made in purely conventional terms (as opposed
to using
Traditional Chinese Medicine terms).  An
important concept used in Western Acupuncture is that of
the "
trigger point".

The
Trigger Point is an area of increased sensitivity within
a muscle which is said to cause a characteristic pattern of
referred pain in a related segment of the body.  An
example might be tender areas in the muscles of the neck
and shoulder which relate to various patterns of headache.
Diagram Showing Some Neck Trigger Points That Give
Rise To Some Facial Pains
Trigger points and their characteristic patterns of referred
pain can be treated by
direct needling at the trigger point.  
This concept is also used in
musculo-skeletal medicine
with
trigger points being treated by manipulative techniques.

What happens during a treatment?

Typically, between 4 – 10 trigger points are needled during
an
acupuncture session.
Photo of Acupuncture Needles
The needles are usually left in place for 10 - 20 minutes,
although some practitioners needle for only a few seconds
or a small electrical current (
electro-acupuncture).
Photo of Electro-Acupuncture
Some acupuncturists attempt to produce a sensation called
"
de Qi" - a sense of heaviness, soreness, or numbness at
the point of needling.  This is said to be a sign that an
acupuncture point has been correctly stimulated.  Many
patients say that they find
acupuncture a relaxing or
sedating experience.

A typical course of
acupuncture treatment for a chronic
condition would be 4 – 6 sessions over a three month
period.  This might be followed by "top up" treatments
every 2 - 6 months.


Is acupuncture safe?

The needles used are individually sterilised and
disposable.  They are used on one patient only before
being discarded.

Side effects are rare.  The most common events were
bleeding at the needle site and needling pain.  Aggravation
of symptoms can occur (in 70% of these cases, there was
a subsequent improvement in the presenting complaint).

The highest rates reported by individual acupuncturists,
expressed as a percentage of consultations, were 53% for
bleeding, 24% for pain, and 11% for aggravation of
symptoms.


What can I expect to feel?

Reaction to the insertion of the needle can be divided into
two groups:
Local and General.


Local effects:

As the needles are so fine there is only the slightest prick
as the needle pierces the skin.  Afterwards, it is possible to
have a variety of sensations from nothing at all to a
sensation of heaviness; a tingling sensation like pins and
needles or the sensation approaching that of a local
anaesthetic.

If the needle is advanced further then there may be a duller
pain or heaviness of a limb which may last for some time
afterwards.  It is possible that odd sensations may be
experienced in areas distant to the spot being needled.

General effects:

These are variable and tend to happen in more sensitive
individuals.  Some patients experience a lightness of mind
and body, a relaxation which approaches effects gained by
1 - 2 drinks of alcohol and is usually pleasant.  Others may
simply feel that their general well-being is improved.  Still
others may feel no difference in their general state.  It is
possible for a few susceptible individuals to feel faint but
this is usually short-lived and subsides when the needle is
removed.


Will acupuncture treatment help me?

75% of all people will get some benefit from acupuncture
treatment.  The facial pain may totally resolve or be much
improved.

Unfortunately, about 25% of patients do not seem to
respond to acupuncture and we can never guarantee
results.


Websites:

British Medical Acupuncture Society

British Acupuncture Council
Last Updated 11th August 2010