Back pain, whether chronic or acute, can be a debilitating condition if allowed to exacerbate. Many sufferers decide to simply put up with the pain, having tried countless pain medications and therapy sessions, eventually feeling completely disheartened by the lack of relief. With the recent turn towards natural healing therapies, acupuncture has arisen as a potential treatment for back pain. The ancient technique has proven to be effective for the very modern ailment that is back pain, often caused by a sedentary lifestyle or by hunching over our computers.
However, many people still treat acupuncture as a last resort option, only trying the ancient remedy once they have tried over-the-counter medication, prescription pills, heat and ice packs, physical therapy or even considered surgery. In reality, acupuncture is more than just a last resort option, being shown to reduce or treat a variety of chronic pain conditions, including back pain.
Acupuncture is the process of stimulating specific spots of the body with thin, precise needles. This process promotes the body’s movement of energy, called qi, through its functional systems (the nervous, respiratory, circulatory, muscular and digestives systems). By stimulating the nervous system to release chemicals, the body’s experience of pain can be changed, or its own internal regulating system can kick into action. Essentially, acupuncture stimulates the body’s own natural healing abilities, which can result in pain relief.
Back pain is a condition that affects a large proportion of the population (specifically, lower back pain affects 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives), and is also known as the leading cause of job disability worldwide. Because of its pervasiveness, extensive research has been conducted on acupuncture’s ability to manage or treat the condition. The National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health found that “acupuncture may help ease chronic low-back pain”, while researchers in China concluded that acupuncture seemed to have a “favourable effect on self-report pain and functional limitations in LBP patients.”
However, it is worth bearing in mind that there can be various causes of back pain, which may require different treatments. Scoliosis, sciatica and lumbar disc herniation are just some of the potential causes of back pain, with some causes necessitating surgery, physiotherapy or remedial massage, for example. Because of this, it is best to consult your doctor before seeking acupuncture as a treatment for your back pain, and check whether your chosen acupuncturist specialises in the specific cause of your back pain. If your back pain is new and you do not know the exact cause of it, get a diagnosis from your doctor to ensure that you are not at immediate risk of serious spinal damage.
Sciatic back pain can be eased by acupuncture, as it is can be caused by qi stagnation or damp accumulation. Acupuncture can be used to regulate the body’s own healing processes, and remove local blockages. While reducing the pain, acupuncture can also prevent further degeneration of the spinal discs.
Lumbar disc herniation is another potential cause of lower back pain and associated radiating pain and numbness. Acupuncture has been found to have a high treatment effective rate for sufferers of lumbar disc herniation, making it a viable treatment option for sufferers.
Acupuncturists will also treat lower back pain caused by inactivity or excessive strain. In fact, this is one of the most common complaints that people turn to acupuncturists for. By stimulating the central nervous system and preventing further degeneration, patients can enjoy greater mobility and pain relief. Other reasons for back pain include physical trauma, holding tension and stress in your back, pelvic inflammatory disease or menstrual pain, which may require other treatment options in unison with acupuncture.
One major appeal of acupuncture is that it is natural, therefore presenting minimal side effects or complications. Medications and surgeries can result in all sorts of unpleasant side effects and even harmful complications, which can prevent many people from seeking out any treatment at all. Those wanting a natural, holistic solution to their back pain could well do with trying acupuncture, as the procedure assists in overall mental and physical wellbeing, while not presenting any risks to the patient.
Acupuncture is a great option for ongoing back pain management, with treatments generally being on a weekly basis until you feel comfortable lengthening the time between sessions. Ensure you speak to an acupuncturist that is experienced in treating back pain that results from a variety of causes, and are diagnosed by a GP before consulting an acupuncturist.