If you have chronic back pain, it is likely that you have tried at least half a dozen techniques and treatments to help and relieve your pain. It is not uncommon that, after having sought western medical treatment without much improvement, people with chronic pain seek different perspectives and approaches to dealing with pain. This may include Eastern medicine treatment options such as acupuncture. This is also true for people with back pain. Have you considered acupuncture for back pain? Let’s look at why you should give this tool for pain relief a try.
Back pain can play a significant role in preventing mobility, social involvement, and general wellbeing. Lower back pain is the most common form. Unfortunately, it is a common and disabling condition. Approximately 70% to 85% of people with lower back pain experience it throughout their lifetime with little to no relief.
What is acupuncture for back pain?
Acupuncture is a technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help treat a range of ailments, usually related to aches and pains. The technique is carried out by practitioners who stimulate your nervous system by inserting thin needles through the skin.
In the case of back pain, practitioners of acupuncture might insert these thin needles directly into different points of your back. They might also insert these thin needles into your arms, hands, legs and feet.
The purpose of acupuncture and many other traditional Chinese medicinal practices is to relieve congested energy. This is called qi (pronounced chee). The acupuncture points are determined based on locations where qi can be accessed.
Qi is the life force and energy flow throughout the body that moves in pathways, called meridians, connected by acupuncture points on the body. Needles, pressure and heat are some of the techniques that can improve qi flow. Qi may lead you to experience tingling sensations throughout your body.
Is acupuncture for back pain effective?
Acupuncture is a reasonable option for people with chronic pain of all kinds to consider. Studies support the use of acupuncture for the treatment of lower-back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis pain, knee pain, and even tension and migraine headaches.
Researchers affiliated with the American Medical Association found that people who underwent acupuncture treatment for lower back pain experienced significant improvement over those who didn’t undergo any treatment.
It is important, however, to be consistent with acupuncture treatment for it to be effective over the longer term. If you are experiencing lower-back pain and you undergo acupuncture treatment for at least 6 months, you could see benefits as effective or even twice as effective as conventional Western therapy.
Want to see an acupuncturist at work? Check out the video below:
Why is acupuncture for back pain effective?
There are 2 perspectives for explaining the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain conditions like back pain: the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the perspective of Western Medicine.
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is effective for pain when the meridians where qi flow is blocked are correctly identified and manipulated to improve qi flow.
When a professional manipulates an acupuncture point for back pain, certain movements of needles sends vibrations along the length of the meridian, improving qi flow and supporting the body’s natural healing process. Acupuncture is also effective as a preventative measure for a range of ailments caused by qi blockage or imbalance.
From the Western perspective, there is limited understanding as to the reason for the effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain. One of the main conclusions is that belief and expectations play a significant role in the potential effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain and other chronic pain conditions.
This, of course, is not to say that Western researchers don’t believe acupuncture to be helpful. In fact, Western medicine has demonstrated that acupuncture is effective for people with certain conditions. Instead, since it doesn’t consider the dimension of the qi, which cannot be measured, it focuses on the importance of being involved in the entire social and cultural belief system around Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In other words, TCM requires the patient to understand the different elements involved in health and wellbeing beyond biological body.
The bottom line
If you have experienced chronic back pain with little to no relief from conventional treatment, acupuncture might be an option for you to find relief. It is important to find an acupuncture professional who can thoroughly explain how acupuncture works, from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, before initiating treatment. It is also important to be consistent in your treatment.
Talk to your doctor about your interest in this treatment. She may be able to refer you to an acupuncturist. Talk to that professional about side effects you may experience, how you can cover the cost and how soon you may experience pain relief for your specific condition(s). As with most treatments, acupuncture needs to form part of your regular practices in health and wellbeing.
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This post was updated in January 2019 with new information and resources.