A few weeks ago, we published a blog about Long-Covid, what it is and how physiotherapy can help you.
In this follow-up, I describe how we as physiotherapists can use our experience and skills in Western Medical Acupuncture to help alleviate the symptoms of Long-Covid.
A quick recap: The umbrella term Long-Covid is used to describe the persistence of symptoms for longer than 12 weeks. Some common Long-Covid symptoms include:
Acupuncture for Insomnia
Acupuncture can be helpful in the treatment of insomnia and poor sleep for a few different reasons. Acupuncture has central regulatory effects, including within the brain's limbic system (our emotional centre) and our autonomic nervous system, which controls our 'fight or flight' responses to stress. Acupuncture triggers an overall calming effect following setting us up for a better night's sleep. There is also research to show that acupuncture promotes melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by our bodies that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle, encouraging a good night's sleep.
Acupuncture for Fatigue
Perhaps the main benefit of acupuncture for fatigue is improvement in sleep quality and patterns, as discussed above. However, acupuncture has another effect that can be beneficial in managing fatigue - the release of endorphins. Endorphins are commonly known as our 'feel-good' chemicals produced naturally within the body and result in a feeling of increased well-being and alertness.
Acupuncture for Breathlessness
While there are many schools of thought on how exactly acupuncture works in relieving breathlessness, the benefits are widely discussed in the literature across many different conditions. Some experts suggest that the benefits are due to relaxing hyperactive respiratory muscles and regulating the autonomic nervous system, as described above. Regardless of the mechanisms, there is little doubt that clinically acupuncture can assist in reducing the symptoms of shortness of breath.
Acupuncture for Pain and Headaches
There are many reasons we can successfully treat and relieve pain in the body using acupuncture. One such reason is the release of endorphins I mentioned earlier. Endorphins act on the opioid receptors in the brain similar to how opiate drugs such as morphine might and thus modulate pain and promote a sense of well-being. We also know acupuncture promotes the release of other neuromediators such as dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline, which positively influence pain perception.
Muscular tension, which can be of particular importance in treating headaches, has also been shown to decrease in response to acupuncture treatment.
Here at Mount Merrion Physiotherapy & Health, we often combine Medical Acupuncture with other treatment techniques such as therapeutic exercises, pacing strategies, and lifestyle advice to achieve the best results for our patients.
By Sadbh O'Flaherty BSc Physio.
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