Back pain is the most common problem I treat in my clinic.
And no wonder: 8 out of 10 people will experience it at some point. It is the third most common medical problem.
50% of people forced to stop working do so because of back pain. Most cases referred to me by orthopedists have been for back pain because they know acupuncture can offer relief when conventional approaches fail.
Acupuncture relieves back pain 4 ways:
- It stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers. Natural in this case means none of the side-effects of drug therapy.
- It reduces the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Studies using MRIs have also shown an increase in the activity of pain-killing receptors in the brain.
- It increases circulation in the problem area, which promotes healing and helps reduce muscle tightness.
- It deactivates trigger points, overly sensitive spots in the muscles and fascia that cause local pain or which refer pain to a different part of the body. Trigger points are often involved in cases of chronic low back pain. Trigger point therapy is an area I have specialized in. There are two articles about trigger points on this website if you want to learn more about the subject.
Of course, the acupuncture point selection differs depending on what is causing the pain. If it is arthritic or dysfunctional facet joints, which is sometimes the case in the above-40 crowd, we choose points closer to the spine. In the above 40 crowd it is also not uncommon to find a condition called “spondylosis,” which involves a deterioration of the disc and a compression of the space in which the spinal nerves exit. If there is long-standing tightness in the muscles and the presence of trigger points, as there generally is when the back pain is chronic, there are other points we select, and they often vary to a certain degree from person to person.
When I treat back pain, I always employ both modern and traditional acupuncture techniques. Traditional involves activating the energy flow in acupuncture meridians that traverse the area of pain as well as treating other points that are traditionally associated with back problems. Modern involves directly treating specific structures that are the source of pain, as well as deactivating trigger points. The modern approach necessitates a good knowledge of anatomy and pain referral patterns that is well described in the field of orthopedic medicine.
I see more cases of chronic back pain. Many acute cases clear up on their own in a couple of weeks, but if not, I advise trying acupuncture. Or if there is an acute flair up of a chronic condition. Even an acute case can heal faster after a treatment or two. I have an article on acute back pain on this website, Back Pain—Acute Injuries from Sports or Work or ‘Whatever’.
How Many Treatments Are Necessary?
This depends on the cause of the pain, its severity, and its duration. Some people will respond to acupuncture more quickly than others.
It is not uncommon for patients to experience some relief after 1 or 2 treatments. I generally suggest a trial of 4 treatments for chronic back pain.
Based on the progress, it is easier to tell how many more treatments will be needed, if any. It could be more that 10. If the pain is gone before the trial of 4 is finished, all the better.
Sometimes periodic maintenance treatments are recommended if there is a permanent structural problem
Many of my back pain patients have generously contributed testimonials. I invite you to read some of them.
For more information, see my longer article, “Do the Chinese get back pain?” Or my article, Back Pain–Acute Injuries from Sports or Work or ‘Whatever’.