Lydia Watt. Physiotherapist and Acupuncture Specialist

Member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (MCSP), BSc Hons Physiotherapy

I trained as a Physiotherapist over fifteen years ago, mainly because I have a great interest in Human Biology and a desire to work with people to promote health and wellbeing, and have been fortunate to gain a broad range of experience during my time as a physiotherapist in Nottingham, Leicester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Strathendrick region.   

I have covered areas including general musculoskeletal outpatients (with particular focus on lower back pain management), mental health, cardiology, respiratory, intensive care, surgical and general medical wards, elderly and community rehabilitation, neurology, orthopaedics, and paediatrics. During the past nine years I have specialised in MS (Multiple Sclerosis),working at Revive MS Support, a specialist centre in Glasgow, for people with MS.

In recent years my main focus has become a holistic approach to pain management, often including acupuncture. I find acupuncture highly effective, in that it complements other aspects of my treatments. These may include hands-on techniques like massage, mobilisations and stretches, as well as exercises, advice, balance, posture and core stability work.

I particularly enjoy using acupuncture because many of my clients (especially those with MS) experience benefits beyond pain relief.  These include: relaxation and stress reduction, better quality sleep and energy levels, improved mobility and movement, improved balance and reduced stiffness, better bladder function and more. Additionally, acupuncture can promote general wellbeing, mood and vitality.

Issues that the therapy can help with

In addition to successfully treating both acute and chronic pain, acupuncture can be used to treat a wide variety of health issues. As well as those suffering from musculoskeletal pain, people with MS find that neuropathic pain (nerve-related pain) can respond well, even in cases where pain killers have been unsuccessful. Common problems which can respond well include: Lower back pain, headaches/migraines, hay fever, osteoarthritis and joint pains, dizziness, most MS-related symptoms, fatigue, stress and many more. Acupuncture combines well with other physiotherapy techniques and can be more effective than conventional treatments.   

The therapeutic approach: what is acupuncture?

Originating from China over 2000 years ago, acupuncture has become increasingly popular in Western Medicine since the 1970’s. Acupuncture involves you sitting or lying comfortably and having a few very fine needles (as fine as a hair) inserted into specific points on your body. During your treatment, the needles stimulate the body’s production of our natural pain and stress relieving chemicals (called endorphins and oxytocin). Many people find that they sleep better after treatment, which has been attributed to melatonin release. Serotonin is also released, which can enhance mood and feelings of wellbeing. Additionally, acupuncture blocks out pain signals (called The Pain Gate Theory) through stimulation of nerve fibres, and helps to lower sensitivity of our tender points too.

Acupuncture has a cumulative effect. So, usually, the more treatments you have, the better the body’s response; though every person is different and will respond at different rates and in different ways. Typically, people find around 6 treatments effective, but as few as 1 or 2 may be enough. Treatments usually work well at around one week intervals initially, then less frequently as your condition improves. As with all other treatments, acupuncture isn’t guaranteed to work for everyone. However, after just a few sessions it is normally clear if acupuncture is beneficial to you.

What happens during a treatment?

After a thorough medical history is taken and your condition assessed, a treatment plan is formulated. Treatment begins and a few needles are inserted at specific points. The location and number of needles required depends upon your symptoms or condition. The needles may be used at the painful area or away from it, but often a combination is used to get the best, most holistic effect. During your session your needles may be gently rotated to to stimulate the body’s response to them. They are kept in situ for up to 30 minutes while you rest and relax. 

Acupuncture should not be painful because unlike an injection, the needles are incredibly fine (approx 0.18mm). During treatment some people feel nothing, while others experience sensations like warmth, heaviness, tingling, numbness or mild aching. These are just signs that the body is responding to the needles. Most people feel very relaxed with treatment and some people even fall asleep. Often people report feeling energised, calm and much less stressed after treatment too.

Western Medicine attributes the sensations to various physiological reactions to the needles such as increased blood flow to the area around the needle and relaxation of muscle spasm too. Traditional Chinese Medicine calls the sensations “Deqi” and explains them as our energy channels being unblocked and energy flowing freely along meridians, or energy pathways, once more.

Safety and acupuncture

Acupuncture is generally very safe when performed by a fully qualified professional. As a physiotherapist, I am bound by a professional code of conduct with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and I am also regulated by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). I adhere to strict hygiene guidelines and am committed to regular continued professional development, offered mainly through the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) courses and educational updates.

All needles used are sterile, individually wrapped and disposed of after a single use before incineration. They are also supplied with a guide tube ensuring that nothing touches the needle as it is inserted. 

Qualifications and professional bodies

  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP)
  • Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP)
  • Health and Care professions Council (HCPC)
  • Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG)
  • Nottingham University BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy