Acupuncture in Podiatry

Acupuncture may be used to treat or help treat many podiatric medical problems often with an emphasis on resolving pain. It is particularly useful for pain of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions relating to the lower limb.

A.     Podiatrists clearly have the medical competencies required to insert an acupuncture needle and determine when it is medically inappropriate to do so. Podiatrists also have the competency to follow the appropriate course of action if an adverse event were to occur. Podiatrists graduate with training in skin penetration, injection techniques, minor surgical training, wound healing skills and high risk management training.

B.      The practical skills can be quickly and easily learnt. The Practical Acupuncture for Podiatrists workshop provides the training required to make extensive use of acupuncture techniques.

C.       There is no requirement to learn or have a belief in traditional theories.

D.       Major adverse events are rare. Medical training further improves safety.

E        Scientific research** has illuminated the principal mechanisms that explain how acupuncture works. This knowledge helps determine the thrust of treatment.

  1. Local to the point of insertion there is a release of peptides that increase blood flow and enhance healing.
  2.  The action potential in the peripheral nerve from the needling will initiate a response at the spinal level in the dorsal horn which causes an analgesic affect in the segment containing that nerve.
  3. The same action potential also ascends to the mid-brain and initiates a response with descending inhibitory pain control to every level of the spinal cord causing an extra segmental analgesic affect by initiating a release of various neuromodulators.
  4. Central regulating effects are also initiated with the limbic system responsible for the affective response to pain, a general emotional calming and often-improved sleep as well as stimulating the pituitary to enable the release of hormones such as ACTH and Endorphin.
  5. When inserted into tender taut bands in muscles known as myofascial trigger points, the acupuncture needle will cause the release of the constriction in that band and its associated symptoms. This technique is known as ‘dry needling’ to denote that nothing has been injected.

Acupuncture is a modality that is low technology and cost, it promotes healing, reduces pain and enhances feelings of well being. It is easily used in combination with other modalities to enhance outcomes. It may even replace existing treatments for some conditions. Acupuncture also provides a possible treatment for some conditions that do not have a treatment protocol, such as neuropathic pain.

** An Introduction to Western Medical Acupuncture, A. White, M. Cummings, J. Filshie, Churchill Livingston, 2008