Updated: September 2018
Acupuncture for back pain has been widely used in certain parts of the world and continues to be an effective pain relief option. Back pain can occur in any area of the back, from the top of the neck to the bottom of the tailbone. The pain is felt in either bones, joints, nerves, muscles or a combination of two or more of these structures of the spine, depending on the severity of each person’s condition.
The back can be divided into four areas, coinciding with the four sections of the spinal column; neck pain (cervical spine), upper back pain (thoracic spine), lower back pain (lumbar spine), and tailbone (sacral spine). The spine is like a highway for the nerves, connecting to each part of the body and sending messages along these roads both to and from the brain.
Because of this, pain in the back can sometimes feel as though there is pain in other areas of the body as well. A good example is sciatica where pain can shoot down your legs. Acupuncture for lower back pain is one of the most common treatments an acupuncturist will perform.
What is Acupuncture?
As you’re probably aware, there are quite a few different ways to treat back pain. Acupuncture is an alternative form of medicine created in China, involving the insertion of very fine needles the body of the patient at key points and manipulating them to promote the desired result, which is usually a reduction in pain.
Acupuncture has other uses; treating allergies, chronic fatigue, and respiratory problems, just to name a few.
Though no one is sure of exactly when acupuncture came into being, it is agreed that this long-standing tradition of Chinese medicine is over 2,500 years old.
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Your First Acupuncture Treatment
Your first visit with an acupuncturist will be longer than any subsequent visits you will have. Being prepared for it will help your appointment to go smoothly.
You should bring along your insurance information, medical history (including recent blood test and diagnostic test results), and a list of any drugs or nutritional supplements you may be taking, including any over-the-counter medicines such as cough syrup or aspirin.
Eating before attending your first appointment is advised and will help you to avoid the possibility of becoming dizzy following your first acupuncture treatment.
Be prepared to fill out a questionnaire which will include questions that might seem unusual or not appear to apply to your current condition. This might include questions about your emotional state, whether you prefer hot or cold drinks, or about your sleeping patterns. Anything, no matter how small or seemingly unrelated, will help the acupuncturist decide on the best way to treat you.
The acupuncturist will take your pulse manually in at least three different positions on each hand and make a visual examination of your tongue.
Once the acupuncturist has come to a diagnosis, the treatment can begin. The needles used are tiny, appearing not much thicker than the width of a single hair, and should come encased in sterile packaging for single use.
The insertion of the needles usually causes no pain, but you may experience a sensation of electricity or heaviness.
Experiencing brief pain is not an impossibility, though if it lasts longer than a few seconds don’t hesitate to say something to your acupuncturist. The needles may be manipulated if the acupuncturist believes it is necessary; usually by hand or with a gentle electrostimulation machine.
Following the treatment, you might be given herbs or a list of exercises to do at home that will help aid in your healing or strengthen your body and immune system. Any following visits will usually be less than half the time of the first.
Does Acupuncture Work for Back Pain?
The short answer is, YES. It can definitely work and help relieve back pain… especially in the short term.
A 2016 Chinese study which involved 751 people with lower back pain, concluded that “pure acupuncture may have a favorable effect on self-reported pain and functional limitations in lower back pain patients”. This is a similar conclusion that over 20 other acupuncture studies have reported.
In addition, people generally leave an appointment with an acupuncturist feeling rejuvenated in response to the endorphins released by the use of the needles.
Acupuncture for back pain can be an effective treatment option for chronic or severe back pain sufferers. Unfortunately, too many people resort to acupuncture as a last resort instead of an early-on treatment option.