Around 80% of people experience back pain at some point of time in their lives. They look out for medical treatment of back pain. People also prefer acupuncture for the treatment of back pain. Research suggests that acupuncture may be a significantly effective option for treating chronic and acute back pain. Acute back pain may be experienced due to injury. Generally, it is due to strain on muscles, ligaments, and bones. Muscle pain, limited movement, inability to stand straight are some common symptoms of back pain. If back pain lasts for more than three months, it is called as chronic back pain. Acupuncture can provide relief from back pain. However, it does not take into account the root cause of the problem.
In this article, Andrew Weil discusses the use of acupuncture in treating back pain. Reviews suggest that acupuncture is very effective in providing relief from chronic back pain.It has been found that both real and sham acupuncture can treat low back pain and they are more effective than standard medical treatment. According to guidelines from the American Pain Society, it has been advised that acupuncture should be considered as an alternative treatment for patients with chronic low back pain that is unable to get treated with conventional medicines.
What is Acupuncture and How it Works?
Acupuncture started in China around 2500 years back. It is a treatment in which needles are inserted along the energy lines or points and can be used in various physical and mental conditions. As per Chinese medicine, there are more than 2000 such points. They are connected by pathways which result in the flow of energy called Qi. When these points are stimulated, balance of qi is maintained, and energy flow is improved. Some acupuncture points for lower back pain are back of the knees, hand points, foot points, stomach, and hip points.
Moreover, it is believed that soothing effects arise as a result of stimulating the central nervous system. This triggers the release of some chemicals in the brain which alter the perception of pain and create a sense of wellbeing. According to some theories, acupuncture works by starting the flow of painkillers called endorphins. Acupuncture basically triggers the secretion of natural opioids which reduce pain and boost sleep. Brain chemistry changes with the release of neurotransmitters leading to altered pain perception.
Acupuncture and its Role in the Treatment of Back Pain
A study published in 2009 examined around 650 adults having chronic back pain who had never underwent acupuncture. The participants were divided in four groups. Those who were in the first group got tailored and customized acupuncture treatment. The second group received generalized treatment with respect to points related to low back pain. Group 3 got sham treatment in which needles did not actually enter the skin. Group 4 got standard medical treatment. The treatment continued for around 8 weeks. They received treatment twice a week for four weeks initially and then once a week for another four weeks. It was found that those in the three groups who received acupuncture fared significantly better than those who received standard medical treatment. The benefits extended over the year. This was true of all participants whether they received individualized or generalized or sham acupuncture. It could not be figured out why real acupuncture did not work any better than sham acupuncture.
Are There Any Side Effects of Acupuncture?
When a trained therapist performs acupuncture, it is generally deemed safe. Side effects like punctured organs or infections are not very common. Also, acupuncture has lesser side effects as compared to other treatment modalities and standard treatment for back pain. If you want to go for acupuncture for back pain, contact an acupuncturist. It is advised that you consult your doctor. It is important to evaluate whether acupuncture will work in your situation or not. A lot of health insurance programs do not cover the cost of acupuncture.
Also, note that one sitting of acupuncture treatment may not give you a permanent solution or cure to your back pain. Long-term treatment is required to completely cure back pain with acupuncture. Even if you feel that your first session was successful, you may have to schedule another appointment as the pain may reoccur.
People who get acupuncture treatment complain of soreness, bruises, and bleeding at sites of the puncture. These problems get resolved in a few days on its own. This does not present any health risk. Talk to your acupuncturist if you are pregnant.
Acupuncture can prove to be a successful therapy for back pain. It may apply to both lower or upper back pain. Research reveals that it can be very helpful for several people. It could be effective for back pain than certain medications Though experts are not sure how it works, research proves its efficacy.