Can Acupuncture help Back Pain?

As a traditional Acupuncturist, one of the many conditions I treat in my wellbeing clinic is back pain. Back pain is a very common condition, and it's thought that nearly two out of three of us have pain in the lower back at some time in our lives. 

The cause isn't normally serious, and most of the time, the pain improves within four to six weeks. But for some people, it can continue for months or even years. Back pain can be caused by many different things, including mechanical or structural problems with the spine, inflammatory conditions, and other medical conditions. 

I get many phone calls asking me if Acupuncture is a suitable treatment option for people struggling with back pain, and it is. I am a Traditional Acupuncturist (BSc Hons), and I work with your body's energy to help restore balance and support it to heal itself. 

Acupuncture can help back pain by: 
  • Providing pain relief – by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, Acupuncture leads to the release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes pain processing in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987; Zhao 2008).
  • Reducing inflammation and promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007;Zijlstra 2003).
  • Improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility – by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling and bruising.
  • Reducing the use of medication for back complaints (Thomas 2006).
  • Providing a more cost-effective treatment over a longer period (Radcliffe 2006;Witt 2006).
  • Improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises (Ammendolia 2008; Yuan 2008).

Clinical Trials on Acupuncture for treating back pain show great results with very little risk of side effects. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides guidelines for the NHS on treatments and care of patients.
Currently, NICE  recommends considering Acupuncture as a treatment option for:
  • chronic (long-term) pain
  • chronic tension-type headaches
  • migraines

Patients who have come to me for a series of treatments have benefited from having Acupuncture. Here are a couple of reviews that patients have left on my Facebook page and booking system. 

However, keep in mind that one acupuncture treatment does not provide a cure for back pain. While relief is reportedly successful, some people need long-term treatment.

Acupuncture commonly takes numerous treatments over time for the best outcome. Most people may invest in a weekly session until they experience improvement. Afterwards, they start scheduling sessions further apart, such as every other week, then monthly. 

Self-help for lower back pain
There are several things you can do to help relieve back pain.
  • Stay active and continue your daily activities as normally as you can.
  • Take care when lifting – avoid bending or twisting your back.
  • Doctors used to advise bed rest, but now we know this can make back pain worse. Try to avoid sitting for long periods.
  • If you need pain relief, take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) – for example, ibuprofen. It would help if you only took these medicines for a short time, not for long-term back pain.
  • You may want to try applying heat or cold treatments to your back. Don't put ice directly on your skin.
  • If you sleep on your side, you may find it helps to sleep with a small cushion between your knees. Try some firm pillows under your knees if you sleep on your back.

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