Articles in Category: Acupuncture


Written by Richard McMahon, BSc (Acupunture), Dip Remedial Massage on Monday, 03 July 2017. Posted in Newsletters, General Health, Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine



By Richard McMahon

BHSc (Acupuncture), Dip Remedial Massage


What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a therapy that has been an integral part of the Chinese Medical Tradition for over 2500 years making its way to the west in the early 70's. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine, single use needles into specific points in the body with the aim of increasing the natural healing capacity of the body and reducing pain.


Do the Needles Hurt?

Patients’ sensitivity is extremely varied but most people do not find Acupuncture to be especially painful. Once the needles are in place most patients find they feel deeply relaxed and calm. However, these treatments are not weak, and in order for a sense of pain relief to occur post treatment, some sensation will be felt. Sometimes treatments are uncomfortable but the idea is to get a good outcome, rather than being specifically gentle and potentially not get a specific result.


Are there any Side Effects to Acupuncture?

The most common side effects of Acupuncture are deep relaxation and drowsiness. However small amounts of bruising can occur occasionally, aching around a tight muscle that has been treated is common in sensitive patients, similar to a deep remedial massage which can last for up to 24 hours, and extremely rarely a patient may feel faint and light headed if they are sensitive and haven't eaten anything that day.


Can I Benefit from Acupuncture Even If I Don't Have Reason to Get Medical Treatment?

Acupuncture has a strong regulating effect on the body and nervous system and can be useful in reducing stress and encouraging better rest and recuperation. Overall, Acupuncture has the potential to create a positive outcome for different conditions.


How Long Will It Take to Recover?

Most patients are very relaxed and sleepy after treatment so intense activity shouldn't be scheduled immediately following treatment. If treatment was for specific injuries or strong muscle tension, it is best to rest after treatment and the area can be achy for up to 24 hours in sensitive people. The patient should expect to be sore the day after treatment however relief should be felt the following day. The acupuncturist is interested in the response the patient is feeling a couple of days after treatment rather than the immediate 24 hour response, often if the acupuncturist is interacting with the problem then a reaction is most likely going to occur, if a patient has a more reactive system they may be sore for a couple of days, but if that means that in a week the patient is on the road to recovery then that's a good outcome from treatment. All of these effects are temporary and usually not perceived as an issue for patients.


How Many Visits Will I Need?

It totally depends on the patient and is adjusted case by case. This relies heavily on how much a patient is willing to do as homework e.g. stretching, diet and sleep and how much stress they have in their lives.  


Do You Use Herbs?

It is preferable to combine Chinese herbal therapy with Acupuncture when treating internal conditions such as digestive issues, sleep disturbance, menstrual irregularities etc. Herbal treatment aids in healing of injuries but usually external herbal formulas such as liniments or soaks are used in the West.


Do You Use the Heat Moxibustion?

Moxibustion is a fantastic therapy but due to smell/smoke I only use it when really necessary such as conditions of strong fatigue or when the patient has strong sensitivity to cold or strong pain that is worse in cold or damp weather.


Is It Similar to Getting an Injection?

Acupuncture needles are extremely thin so are usually much more comfortable than the larger needles used for injections.


Do You Use the Electrical Devices?

Electrical stimulation can be used to enhance treatment especially if the condition involves swelling e.g. chronic knee injuries or bursitis of the hip.


What Are the Known Conditions Treated by Acupuncture?

Musculoskeletal conditions treated include; lower back ache, knee pain, bursitis, tendonitis, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, muscle tension, arthritis, sciatic, joint pain, sporting injuries.

Digestive conditions treated include; heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal bloating or pain and ulcers.

The respiratory system can have beneficial effects from Acupuncture; these include the common cold, asthma, sinusitis, bronchitis, chronic cough, low immune system.

Acupuncture can also help with women suffering from menstrual cramps/pain, irregularity, abnormal bleeding and menopausal symptoms.

Cardiovascular problems can also be treated by the use of Acupuncture; these include patients with high or low blood pressure, fluid retention, chest pain poor circulation, muscle cramps, stress, insomnia, withdrawal from medication or drugs, headaches, migraines, facial and inter-costal neuralgia, some paralysis conditions, post stroke recovery, fatigue, chronic pain, post-op recovery.

What Should I Expect on My First Acupuncture Visit?

When you first attend our clinic for treatment you will be asked to fill out a detailed form about your general health and the history of the complaint that you would like treated. It is important that you fill out the whole form even if you feel the questions don't relate specifically to the condition you would like worked on. This questionnaire assists in understanding the unique state of your body so that we can address any underlying imbalances that may be contributing to your condition.


Your therapist will then ask a series of questions to further understand your unique constitutional make up. Your pulse will be taken and your therapist may need to perform some abdominal palpation to obtain further details about the state of the body.


Sports medicine assessment techniques will now be utilized if you are attending the clinic for a musculoskeletal complaint.


Acupuncture and the Treatment of Lower Back Pain

Written by Richard McMahon, BSc (Acupunture), Dip Remedial Massage on Wednesday, 11 June 2014. Posted in Acupuncture

Acupuncture and the Treatment of Lower Back Pain





Lower back pain is the second most common cause of missed work days due to illness and the most common cause of missed workdays due to disability[i]. High risk groups include; those who spend long periods of time sitting and leaning forward such as office workers or commercial drivers as well as those who engage in activities which involve trunk rotation combined with flexion for eg. Golfers and brick layers.


When we lean forward, the flexion of our lumbar spine causes the fluid in the centre of the disc to shift backwards. This movement places pressure against the layers of the disc at the rear of the spine which over time can become weakened and predispose to acute disc injury (disc bulge or prolapse) and to chronic inflammation of the outer layers of the disc (inflammation of the annulus fibrosis).


Although certain activities can predispose towards lower back injury an active lifestyle is preferable to a sedentary one with a recent study showing that the amount of pressure in the intervertebral discs is higher in the seated position than either standing or walking[ii]. Maintaining strength and flexibility are essential in the prevention of lower back issues as muscle imbalance will lead to an increased incidence of soft tissue injury and degenerative changes.




Acupuncture has been used in China for the treatment of back pain for over 2000 years and is being increasingly utilized in the west. Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are now registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and in other western countries it is rebated as part of their government health schemes (New Zealand and Germany). Due to the high number of patients receiving acupuncture in Germany there have been several high quality studies done in recent times. In the 2007 study performed by Haake et. al. acupuncture was shown to have almost twice the benefit of standard care alone (a combination of drugs, physical therapy, and exercise) in reducing back pain at a 6 month follow up after a course of acupuncture treatment[iii]. Acupuncture is recognized by all of the major private health funds in Australia.



There are specific points which access each spinal level that were first recorded by the great acupuncturist Hua Tou (140-208AD) in the Eastern Han Dynasty. With small changes to the angle of insertion and depth it is possible to focus the treatment of these points to either the local spinal musculature, the disc or the facet joints of the spine. These points combined with treatment of the motor points of the involved musculature and then supported with points to enhance the underlying constitutional health of the body, enable much faster recovery from injury and pain relief[iv].


It is essential that the acupuncturist has had extensive training for this style of work and not just a short course. Please look for a degree level of qualification and registration with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia when choosing your acupuncturist.


Treatment usually starts with 2 session a week for 2-3 weeks and then moves to weekly intervals to manage the sub-acute stage of recovery. For more chronic milder cases once a week is adequate to assist in the healing response.


[i] Frymoyer JW, Cats-Baril WL: An overview of the incidences and costs of low back pain. Orthop Clin NORTH Am 2001;22(2): 263-271

[ii] Oshima, J.P., Urban, D. H. Effect of applied load to the intervertebral disc measured in vitro by a new perfusion technique. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, v.13. p. 22-29. Jan. 2005

[iii] Haake, M et al., German Acupuncture Trials (GERAC) for chronic low back pain: randomized, multicenter, blinded, parallel-group trial with 3 groups. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Sep 24;167 (17):1892-8.


[iv] Callison, M. Low Back and Leg Pain (Yao Tui Tong ) lecture notes, Aukland New Zealand August 24-25th 2013


Calming the Heart

Written by Richard McMahon, BSc (Acupunture), Dip Remedial Massage on Wednesday, 23 September 2015. Posted in Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine

Managing Anxiety with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

By Richard McMahon

BHSc (Acupuncutre), Dip Remedial Massage



Anxiety is the most common mental disorder affecting modern day Australians with 14% of those between the ages of 16-85 suffering from some degree of the condition.[i] It is a state of mind categorized by excessive worry, hyper-vigilance, avoidance, emotional tension, irrational thinking and may be accompanied by physical anxiety reactions such as hot and cold flushes, irritable bowel syndrome, tightening of the chest, racing heart and palpitations.




The thoughts and behaviours associated with an anxiety disorder are generally extreme or excessive versions of normal thoughts and behaviours. The causes of anxiety disorders are thought to be a complex interaction between several factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events. Common treatments for anxiety disorders include cognitive behavioural therapy, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practice and medications such as anti-depressants. [ii]




There is a long history of use for both Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine in the treatment of anxiety or mental unrest in China with the Shan Hun Lun Za Bing Lun written in 220ad recording multiple situations leading to the development of the condition including shock or fright, exhaustion due to overwork or excessive thinking, mistreatment of illness or prolonged convalescence that leads to an imbalance in the body and subsequent mental emotional condition. 


Acupuncture is also one of the few complementary therapies that gets the thumbs up by Beyond Blue for the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This is due to recent studies that have shown the positive benefits of adding Acupuncture treatment into the management of this condition. [iii]




In the Chinese Medical Model anxiety conditions could be linked to a large variety of constitutional imbalances but the most common situation involves a dysregulation between the relationship between the Heart and Kidneys. In Classical Chinese thought the Heart is associated with the emotion of Joy and the element of fire whilst the Kidneys are associated with the emotion of Fear and the element of water. In Anxiety conditions we see an abundance of fear and the inability to maintain a balanced positive emotional sense of self. Keep in mind that the Hearts state of joy is not a hyped up excited state it is a steady positive warmth that when present effuses our lives with feelings of safety, warmth and gives us the ability to move forward without fearing the unknown.


Treatment aims to strengthen and stabilize the heart, calm the mind and re-establish a healthy balance in the body. Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, breathing techniques and exercises would all be utilized in this model. The basic breathing technique and mindfulness drills are included in the introduction to meditation article on the website under the general health link for those who are interested.


[i] Australian Bureau of Statistics

[ii] Anxiety Recovery Centre of Victoria

[iii] Beyond Blue The National Depression Initiative