Western Medical Acupuncture (WMA) has been developed from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); this is a parallel medicine which is often used (in China) as an alternative to “mainstream” medicine.


To be a TCM practitioner takes years of training, equivalent to a doctor and involves a wide knowledge of illness, disease and injury and is used to treat everything from arthritis to heart disease, fertility and depression and everything in between. Treatments tend to involve allergy testing and subsequent dietary advice, acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping and various supplements not necessarily seen in western medicine.


WMA takes part of the practice of TCM; specifically pain relief, for which there is strong evidence to support its efficacy and incorporates it into our western view of medical practice. It tends to be administered alongside other treatment strategies as this has been shown to be more effective.

The same needle points, “channels” and language are used as TCM but the practice tends to focus on long lasting pain relief. The effects of acupuncture can last for a few days and this allows the body to re-establish correct function and further prolong the benefits of the treatment.

The needles are inserted in specific channels depending on the judgement of the practitioner and (in adults) can be kept in for up to 40 minutes, generally a minimum of 10 minutes, although less is also ok - especially with “strong responders” and children. The needles can go quite deep depending on need and are often “stimulated” by the practitioner either with heat, electricity or by movement.

WMA is particularly effective for long term pain conditions but it can also be used for gastro-intestinal issues, anxiety, stress, palsy and tinnitus.


Dry-needling is a subset of Acupuncture and is the application of needles 1-2mm into the skin, normally over a tight muscle or "trigger point" to produce a relaxing and pain relieving effect which can take the edge off your pain and make treatment easier.


To practice dry-needling or acupuncture, all clinics must be registered with their local council and all practitioners must be qualified and accredited by a national body (who normally provides insurance). Each practitioner must also be individually registered with the council. Western Medical Acupuncturists have to abide by a strict code of conduct and must maintain their skills through regular continuous professional development. The two main bodies in the UK are the AACP (Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists) and the BAC (British Acupuncture Council).


Here at Bristol Chiropractic (BCSFC) our Chiros and Physios will often use needles as part of their practice and if you find it effective you can book in for a session with Acupuncture as the primary form treatment. These sessions are always a bit longer (about 45 mins) and cost the same as an initial assessment each time.


Dan Brown

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