Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Repetitive strain injury: the benefits of Acupuncture

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is becoming increasingly common, with more than two thirds of workers now suffering.

This causes a collective loss of 5.4 million working days per year, costing the UK industry between £5 billion to £10 billion annually.

RSI is increasing mainly because of the use of computers and technology. However, according to Repetitive Strain Injury Action, it is unlikely there is just one single cause of RSI, as there can be a mix of contributory factors.

These include a poorly structured workstation, working for long periods without breaks, poor posture and excessive workload. Secondary factors include stress which leads to tension in the muscle tissue, and other factors such as age, general health, and even the weather.

Symptoms of RSI include:
  • Pain, aching or tenderness
  • Throbbing
  • Numbness
  • Cramp
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
Tenosynovitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) are the most well-known repetitive strain injuries. Tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the sheath surrounding the tendon, whilst CTS leads to sufferers experiencing disabling pain with a tingling in the thumb and first two fingers after muscle tendons swell, increasing pressure on the nerves and causing pain.

There are many different forms of treatment for RSI, including painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, heat and cold packs, physiotherapy, and acupuncture.The latter is a particularly effective way to remedy RSI by releasing muscle tension and stimulating bloody flow to the affected area, relieving pain.


There are two main forms of acupuncture: Chinese traditional medicine that has been practiced in China for thousands of years, and western-based science and evidence.

Acupuncture is a treatment used to treat 28 various conditions, including general pain management, headaches, RSI, and osteoarthritis of the knee and spine. Throughout the process, single-use, pre-sterilised needles of differing widths, lengths, and materials are inserted into your skin at specific acupuncture points on the body at differing depths.

There are two variations of acupuncture - conventional, and trigger point. For conventional acupuncture, the needles are typically left in position for 20-30 minutes before removal.

However, as trigger point acupuncture is used to relax specific muscles to resolve long-term muscle pain or to increase muscle length to aid rehabilitation, the needle is inserted into the affected muscle until the tissue relaxes, and is then removed. This form of acupuncture has a more immediate effect, therefore a 20-30 minute treatment is not necessary.

UCLan Physiotherapy Clinic offers western acupuncture to the general public as well as students and staff. The fully-trained professional staff also provides acupressure through massage, where our physiotherapists activate key acupuncture points through massage to relieve your muscle tightness. This treatment is often used for children, sensitive patients and people with a phobia of needles.

Treatment usually consists of 4-6 sessions over the course of weeks or months, depending on the condition being treated. Acupuncture is not usually used as an isolated practice, but alongside other treatments such as manual therapy.

Acupuncture should only be performed by trained practitioners. Our senior physiotherapist, Greg Littler, is a member of the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists and performs western acupuncture at UCLan's Physiotherapy Clinic. Treatments cost from £25.

For more details please click here or telephone 01772 894902.

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