Acupuncture for back pain? Let’s get to the point

There are so many different complementary therapies for treating low back pain. A recent study by Arthritis Research UK looked at 25 complementary therapies for back pain, including yoga, Tai Chi, Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Acupuncture.

1,718 people with back pain had acupuncture to help their back pain and the studies proved that acupuncture treatment for back pain was better than either no treatment, or pretend/sham acupuncture i.e. acupuncture truly helps back pain.

You can read the full report here:
Summary of evidence in relation to complementary and alternative therapies for back pain pdf

How Does Acupuncture Work for Back Pain?

Acupuncture stimulates nerves located in muscles and other tissues which leads to release of endorphins. It appears to reduce inflammation and improve the local microcirculation of blood, which in turn helps to reduce swelling.

Acupuncture improves the symptoms of stiff muscles and improves joint mobility.

In 2009, NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) recommended ten sessions of acupuncture to try and help with early management of low back pain and in September 2016, a review article called “Complementary/Integrative therapies that work: a review of the literature” concluded that acupuncture has good evidence to support its use in treating chronic low back pain. This is good news, since a whopping 1 in 3 Americans used complementary therapies for different conditions in 2012 alone.

What does Acupuncture Involve?

For low back pain, needles may be inserted around the spine or further afield in the arms, hands or legs. As a general rule, the more acute and severe the pain, the fewer needles are inserted into the spine itself and the more needles are inserted distally in an attempt to calm an overactive nervous system.

Chronic (longer term) lower back ache treatment aims to break down the stagnation in the lower back with local needle insertion.  Frequently I would add Tui Na, a form ofmassage used in Chinese Hospitals, to help breakdown soft tissue adhesions and promote healing.Anything else?

Yes. At all costs remain active. I’m fortunate in my clinic to see how lifestyle choices impact my patients’ decades on. Many patients think that by not moving they will stop the pain. Nothing could be further from the truth. An inactive spine creates stiff segments that shunt the problem further along the spine and can precipitate compression and fusion of spinal segments.

When choosing an activity you must be aware of your limitations. The best form of exercise for the spine involves gentle, consistent movement of the spine and strengthening of the core, with low levels of impact. Tai Chi is excellent for both. Yoga, under the watchful eye of an experienced teacher can be excellent therapy as well. If a posture hurts though back out of it and don’t get competitive. Yoga is about you, not a competition with your neighbor on the mat next to you.

Don’t Despair!

Above all else don’t despair. Back pain can get better with therapy and appropriate exercise.