Acupuncture and Back Pain
One of the most common reasons patients visit a health care provider is back pain. Unfortunately, back pain can be difficult to treat and often becomes a chronic condition. The good news is that acupuncture is a safe and effective form of treatment for back pain, including:
- Lower back pain
- Upper back pain
- Neck pain
- Chronic back pain
- Chronic neck pain
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of Oriental Medicine treatment where acupuncture needles are inserted into meridians on the body. The principle of the treatment is to adjust the flow of Qi, or energy, in these acupuncture meridians which can control aspects of our body’s functioning. Acupuncture is especially effective for back pain relief, but is also used to treat various internal disorders.
Why use Acupuncture?
The most common treatment for chronic back pain is over-the-counter non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Unfortunately, the use of these pharmaceuticals can lead to unwanted side-effects, such as lethargy, stomach ulcers, constipation, nausea, and shallow breathing. While these medications provide a temporary relief in the level of chronic back pain, rarely do they help in the resolution of the back pain’s cause.
Acupuncture has been proven in several recent studies to improve chronic back pain better than standard medical care with no side effects. A 2006 acupuncture back pain study by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) reported that “patients who received acupuncture in the study reported lower pain levels and used fewer pain killers than those who received usual NHS care.” A 2007 study conducted in Germany found that half of the patients receiving acupuncture had experienced positive improvement in their condition that lasted for months, verse only half as many in the standard care group. The results of the German study were so convincing that acupuncture is now covered by the Germany state health insurance for back pain.
How Can Acupuncture Help Back Pain?
In Oriental Medicine, there is a fundamental theory that states: when the Qi is blocked, there is pain. By regulating the flow of Qi in the body, acute and chronic pains can be relieved.
Back pain occurs from both acute and chronic causes. Acute cases of back pain are often the caused by injury or poor posture that results in Qi and Blood stasis in the lower back. The stagnation blocks the flow of Qi and Blood through the lower back resulting in sharp stabbing pain. Some chronic back pain conditions begin as acute trauma, but the back pain persists due to a disharmony that is preventing the body from healing itself. In chronic back pain cases without injury, a constitutional deficiency of the Kidney can lead to a dull-ache type of back pain. Acupuncture can support the body’s healing mechanisms to expedite the healing process while decreasing the concurrent pain.
A western medical diagnosis can also be helpful in acupuncture treatment for back pain. Some States include the ordering of x-rays and MRI’s in the scope of practice of an Acupuncturist. Common western medical causes of back pain include: sprains of ligaments, strains of muscles, and herniations of intervertebral discs. If the back pain radiates down the buttocks and leg, you are also experiencing sciatica. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is being irritated by a herniated disc or the surrounding muscles, such as the piriformis. Sciatica conditions are gauged by how far the pain extends down your leg. Sciatica back pain also responds well to acupuncture treatment.
What Happens at an Acupuncture Treatment for Back Pain?
When you visit an Acupuncturist, they will first form a diagnosis based on Oriental Medicine principles to determine the cause of your back pain. This process of diagnosis generally includes pulse analysis, tongue examination, body palpation, history of condition, and questions on your general health. This information will be used to construct your pattern of disharmony that is manifesting as back pain.
Depending on the style of the practitioner and the nature of your back pain, the Acupuncturist may choose to use either local or distal treatment. When using local acupuncture treatment, the acupuncture needles will be inserted in the direct area of your pain. The acupuncture needles are very thin and usually only cause a mild discomfort upon insertion. The Acupuncturist will then stimulate the acupuncture needles by either hand manipulation or electro-stimulation to alter the flow of Qi through the local area.
If the Acupuncturist chooses to use a distal method of acupuncture, acupuncture needles will be inserted at other locations on your body. Several acupuncture meridians travel through your lower back area, and acupuncture needles may be inserted into acupuncture points on your limbs that affect the flow of Qi in those meridians. Distal acupuncture treatment offers several advantages: the ability to move your back during treatment to see if the treatment is working properly, and avoiding any unnecessary trauma or over-stimulation of the local area by needling.
One unique part of an acupuncture treatment is that each treatment is specifically designed for you. Everyone’s back pain is different and each person responds differently to treatment. An experienced Acupuncturist will be able to tailor the treatment to best fit your back pain condition.
Finding an Acupuncturist
If you are currently experiencing any discomfort in your back, receiving a treatment from a qualified Acupuncturist can really improve your condition. While you may be unfamiliar with the theory and methods of Acupuncture, its popularity is rising rapidly due to its ability to provide a safe and effective treatment for back pain and a variety of other health conditions. Find an Acupuncturist today!