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Does Acupuncture Really Work For Back Pain

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How Does ACUPUNCTURE Work? [Acupuncture Treatment For Back Pain, Headaches & More]

One more factor was in play: expectations. Patients hopes and beliefs, numerous studies have shown, are the basis for placebo effects. Buried deep in an appendix, the researchers reported on patients expectations. Of those getting usual care alone, 24 percent expected it to be fairly or very effective. Far more expected their therapy to work in the usual-care-plus-acupuncture group and in the usual-care-plus-Alexander group . Those effects are more likely to explain the add-on benefits of alternative therapies than the supposed mechanisms of such therapies. MacPherson allowed that placebo effects could have occurred, though he thinks better coping strategies learned from acupuncture or Alexander probably played a bigger role.

The Takeaway: STAT cannot say it better than the Bard. Quoth Hamlet, thinking will make it so.

How Does It Work

Acupuncturists insert hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points around the body. It is virtually painless when done by an experienced practitioner. Inserting the needles is thought to correct imbalances in the flow of energy in the body, called qi . As I write in the April issue of the Harvard Mens Health Watch, in Western scientific terms acupuncture is thought to ease pain by affecting neurotransmitters, hormone levels, or the immune system.

For new pain, an acupuncturist should not always be your first stop. Dr. Chen recommends that individuals have clear diagnoses of what is causing their pain to rule out serious medical conditions that should be treated right awayand then seek out acupuncture if appropriate.

  • How often is acupuncture needed? Plan on weekly treatments until you start to see a benefit, then gradually lengthen the time until the next visit.
  • What does it cost? Acupuncture treatments range from $65 to $125 per session. Private insurers usually dont pay for it, nor do Medicare or Medicaid. Some plans may cover the cost of a physician-acupuncturist.
  • Who administers it? Ideally a trusted, certified provider. You can search for a trained acupuncturist at the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or by calling the organization at 904-598-1005.

Does Acupuncture For Lower Back Pain Really Work

By | Submitted On March 22, 2009

The National Institutes of Health reports that up to 80 percent of all people in the U.S will suffer from some type of back pain. That means four out of five adults are likely to have low back pain at some point in their life, making it one of the most common ailments, second only to headache.

Wow! That’s a lot of people with back pain!

There are many treatments available to help relieve this pain. Unfortunately, there is no one single definitive treatment. So the use of acupuncture for lower back pain has become more popular over the past few years.

A number of studies have shown acupuncture as a reliable method for pain relief. In fact, the Annals of Internal Medicine has published an analysis on acupuncture for lower back pain showing that among the two dozen previously published studies on back pain treatments, acupuncture was “significantly more effective” than no treatment.

Yet, there are still those who don’t believe in the benefits of acupuncture.

So How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture has been used to treat a number of illnesses for hundreds of years in China and many other Asian nations.

Is There Science Behind Acupuncture?

In a study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain, Dr. Christer Carlsson and his colleague Dr. Bengt Sjlund of the Lund University Hospital in Sweden were able to prove the safety of using acupuncture for lower back pain.

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Why Is Acupuncture For Back Pain Effective

There are 2 perspectives for explaining the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain conditions like back pain: the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the perspective of Western Medicine.

From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is effective for pain when the meridians where qi flow is blocked are correctly identified and manipulated to improve qi flow.

When a professional manipulates an acupuncture point for back pain, certain movements of needles sends vibrations along the length of the meridian, improving qi flow and supporting the bodys natural healing process. Acupuncture is also effective as a preventative measure for a range of ailments caused by qi blockage or imbalance.

From the Western perspective, there is limited understanding as to the reason for the effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain. One of the main conclusions is that belief and expectations play a significant role in the potential effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain and other chronic pain conditions.

This, of course, is not to say that Western researchers dont believe acupuncture to be helpful. In fact, Western medicine has demonstrated that acupuncture is effective for people with certain conditions. Instead, since it doesnt consider the dimension of the qi, which cannot be measured, it focuses on the importance of being involved in the entire social and cultural belief system around Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Effects On The Nervous System

Does Acupuncture Work For Back Pain?

The body responds to pain in varying degrees. Because the needles used for acupuncture arent serious enough to merit a full-on nervous response from your body, theyre thought to influence the nervous system in other ways. One theory is that the trigger points or meridians used in acupuncture actually help stimulate the nervous system by activating its response in a way that helps manage the pain.

Acupuncture may influence your brain by having it react to the specific trigger points each time a needle is inserted, so your nervous system either compensates or focuses on that point rather than the site thats causing you active pain. Again, these effects are only temporary, but its possible to find relative short-term pain relief with repeated sessions.

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How Does Acupuncture Work

Part of the reason why acupuncture hasnt made it into mainstream medical circles until recently is because experts are only just beginning to understand how it works.

According to TCM philosophy, everything in the world needs to be in harmony, and issues arise when things are thrown out of balance. So when it comes to your health, TCM believes that something has caused an imbalance in your body, and acupuncture can help bring it back into proper working order.

Needless to say, this philosophical concept can be tough to translate into Western medical terms. In that sense, theres still quite a bit of discussion about how exactly acupuncture works, Majd says.

Some theories say that by inserting a needle into the body, youre increasing production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin or stimulating the function of the immune and nervous systems, he explains. Theres no one definitive answer to how acupuncture works and thats where there is a lot of debate going on.

Appendixa Personal Perspective: How It Felt To Change To My Mind About Acupuncture Over A Period Of Several Years

I used to believe in acupuncture. I think almost everyone did. Probably not this guy. And probably not this one either. But just about everyone else, even skeptics, cut acupuncture some slack.

Over the years, I have been persuaded by more and more good quality evidence and the steady stream of patients with nothing better to say about it than maybe it helped for a while that there is really nothing at all to acupuncture. Its just another folk medicine tradition, about as therapeutically meaningful as a manicure.

So how did it feel to change my mind? Oh, a little awkward. It was like diving into water you just know is cold enough to make you gasp. I felt some emotional resistance to the evidence. I also remember feeling comforted whenever I read anything that seemed to bolster my besieged beliefs , and there was plenty of that. It took me quite a while to notice the disturbing pattern that the evidence supporting acupuncture was of consistently lower quality, while the evidence undermining it was of consistently higher quality.

Having my beliefs challenged by such intelligent people was uncomfortable at first, but it was overshadowed by the desire to understand. Despite my initial reluctance, in the end Im proud to say that I was much more interested in just knowing how the world works than anything else.

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Studies Show The Effectiveness Of Needles And Other Forms Of Treatment

If youve ever considered acupuncture for chronic low back pain, heres the good news: Studies by Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute show that acupuncture can help. In a large study, KPWHRI researchers found that acupuncture was more effective than usual care alone for helping people with chronic low back pain feel less bothered by their symptoms and function better in their daily activities.

“Acupuncture is about as effective as other treatments for chronic back pain that have been found helpful,” says study leader Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD, an emeritus senior investigator at KPWHRI. “But we found that simulated acupuncture, without penetrating the skin, produced as much benefit as needle acupunctureand that raises questions about how acupuncture works.”

Since simulated acupuncture also soothed low back pain, the benefit seemed to require neither tailoring acupuncture needle sites to an individual patient nor inserting needles into the skin. “We don’t know precisely why people got back pain relief from the simulated acupuncture,” says study co-author Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH, a senior investigator at KPWHRI. “Historically, some types of acupuncture have used non-penetrating needles. Such treatments may involve physiological effects that make a clinical difference.” Or it might be all about the mind-body connection. She said, “Maybe the context in which people get treatment has effects that are more important than the mechanically induced effects.”

What Are The Risks Associated With Acupuncture

Acupuncture for low back pain | DOES IT HURT?

You neednt be unduly scared of needles and the treatment in general as Acupuncture is considered to be a safe treatment. It involves minimal risks, especially when conducted by trained practitioners. Certain conditions such as bleeding disorders, medications to reduce clotting , specific skin infections in the area where the needle is inserted, having a pacemaker in the body or suffering from a systematic infection, should steer clear of the treatment procedure. Some acupuncturists are scared of carrying out the acupuncture treatment on pregnant women. It is important you share your medical history with your practitioner.

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When To See A Physician

One way that you can have acupuncture sessions with a bit of peace of mind is to consult with your doctor before your sessions. Often, a physician will have a better idea of how your body will react to the procedure, like pain tolerance, the general need for acupuncture, and overall post-procedure aftercare.

They can also help with reducing the common side effects that may arise from acupuncture sessions, like swelling, inflammation, and bleeding. Typically, youd want to inform your physician about the regularity of your visits to the acupuncturist, and any physical changes that happen after each procedure.

Visiting a physician is also essential if youre on medications like anticoagulants, have a pre-existing condition like anemia, or are going through pregnancy. While acupuncture is a minimally invasive procedure that doesnt carry immediate risks, the unknown complications of how it interacts with each person mean you need to be very careful about going through with it if you fall under any of these categories.

Finally, if you experience any symptoms or changes that are not explicitly linked to your acupuncture sessions, your physician can diagnose and treat these changes if they need immediate attention. Overall, acupuncture as an alternative method of pain management isnt a bad idea, but it should always come with a doctors approval.

Check Out Some Of The Important Acupuncture Points For Inflammation Here

  • Large Intestine Channel: LI4, Hegu

Find this point on the back side of the hand located between the thumb and the first finger. This point helps treat inflammatory conditions and fevers.

  • Lung Channel: LU7, Lieque

Find this point on the wrist on the inside of the arm. This acupuncture point treats pain and inflammation in the upper body. It includes pain in the head, neck stiffness, cough, sore throat, facial paralysis, and also several wrist conditions.

  • Gallbladder Channel: GB20, Fengchi

Find this point at the base of the skull where the neck joins the back. It treats disorders such as neck pain, headache, and fever. In addition, it also helps lower blood pressure.

  • Liver Channel: LV3, Taichong

Find this point at the top of your foot, located between the first and second toes. It helps reduce pain in the chest, provides relief from headaches, and also reduces high blood pressure.

  • Urinary Bladder Channel: BL40, Weizhong

Find this point behind the knee. It helps treat hip impairment, back pain, leg pain, muscular atrophy, nausea, abdominal pain, and many other ailments.

  • Kidney Channel: KI3, Taixi

Youll find this point in the inner ankle. It treats nominal pain from a sore throat to a toothache to a more chronic back pain.

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Acupuncture For Back Pain

At some point in our lives 85% of us will experience back pain.

Whether its caused by arthritis, injury, long days hunched over a computer or some other trigger, back pain can severely limit your activities and ability to work.

Fortunately, back pain doesnt have to make your life miserable. There are actions you can take to reduce or eliminate the pain. Acupuncture is one of the solutions we employ at Equilibrium.

Acupuncture is especially effective for the relief of chronic and acute back pain, and offers long-lasting results with no side effects. So, does acupuncture really work for lower back pain? The answer is Yes!

Acupuncture For Nerve Pain

Acupuncture for back pain

Note: Remember that you experience nerve pain when there is pinching or compression of the nerves due to any reason.

Acupuncture for a pinched nerve is a great practice to heal sciatica, mostly practiced in China, Japan, and Korea.

How can acupuncture help sciatica pain anyway?

Different theories explain the mechanism of acupuncture for nerve pain. One of such theories focuses on qi energy.

Qi is well-known as the main source of energy for the human body. TCM believes that the sciatic or any sort of pain originates from the imbalance in this energy flow.

Therefore, acupuncture for sciatica helps regain the normal flow of qi energy which soothes the sciatica nerve pain.

Moreover, acupuncture for nerve pain or sciatica acupuncture shrinks the recovery period of sciatica nerve injury. This will lead to better and more effective results.

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Who Can Benefit From Acupuncture For Back Pain

Most back pain occurs between the ages of 25 and 60. And its especially prevalent in the 40s. But back pain can affect anyone at any timeas mentioned above, around 8 out of 10 Canadians will experience back pain over the course of our lives.

Acupuncture is for anyone who wants to return to his or her healthy, active life. Acupuncture treatment is safe, effective and painless, and doesnt have any side effects. Its a natural alternative to conventional therapies that will result in not only reduced back pain, but also lasting health and wellness.

Want to know more about how acupuncture can help your lower back pain? Dont hesitate to contact us, book an appointment online, or drop by our acupuncture clinic in downtown Victoria BC.

Acupuncture Works Better Than Sham Acupuncture And Medication In Relieving Pain

In 11 randomized-controlled trials, acupuncture was found to be more effective than medication and sham acupuncture in relieving pain.33.Lee JH, e. . Acupuncture for acute low back pain: a systematic review. – PubMed – NCBI. Available at: .×

In a blinded, randomized controlled trial, 46 patients randomly undertook either acupuncture therapy or Placebo transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation . The patients went through 6 weeks of weekly treatment and were followed up after six months. Both groups showed improvements.44.Kerr DP, e. . Acupuncture in the management of chronic low back pain: a blinded randomized controlled trial. – PubMed – NCBI. Available at: .×

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It Changes The Chemistry Of The Brain

Acupuncture treatment works by making modifications to the brain’s chemistry. The treatment helps change the brain by altering the release of the neurotransmitters that work to stimulate or dampen nerve impulses or by releasing the neurohormones that work to improve the functioning of the body. According to Spine Universe, these natural chemicals may either change the pain experience or trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones that influence the body’s own internal regulating system.

Pain Relief Is A Common Reason Why Patients Seek Acupuncture Therapy


Most patients in my practice come to see me for pain relief. Neck and back pain are the most common conditions. Since acupuncture is usually sought out last after more conventional medicine has not achieved the desired result, many of my patients are surprised at how effective it this centuries old method can be. Its a very rewarding experience to see my patients able to either be pain-free or living with less pain!

For anyone who may be thinking of acupuncture as a modality of treatment, I say, make it your choice, not your last resort.

1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health . Acupuncture: In depth. January 2016. Accessed August 19, 2016.

2. Liang FF, Chen WY, Chen B, Xu QG, Zhan HS. Effect of acupuncture therapy on patients with low back pain: A meta-analysis. Zhongguo Gu Shang. 2016 29:449-455. Abstract. Accessed August 19, 2016.

3. Zou G, Yi QC, Wu SX, Lu YX, Wang FS, Yu YG, et al. Enkephalin involvement in acupuncture analgesia-radioimmunoassay. Sci Sin. 1980 23:1197-1207. Abstract. Accessed August 19, 2016.

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How Does Acupuncture Work Acupuncture For Inflammation

Acupuncture works by stimulating certain the points in the body to bring about a certain balance in your health. The Qi or the energy flow, pronounced chee, moves within the 12 main channels in the body, also known as meridians. The 12 meridians in the body represent certain major organs and functions of the body, although it is not necessary that they follow the exact tracts of nerves or blood flow, they have a flow of their own.

The chief aim of acupuncture is to correct the imbalance of flow and enable stimulation. You can correct the imbalance by inserting needles through the skin along the meridians of the body. There are actually 400 different acupuncture points to treat a number of health problems.

How does acupuncture for inflammation actually work? A few scientists believe that acupuncture works by stimulating various nerve points on the human body and this helps mitigate pain in the body. According to another popular theory, acupuncture works as it releases certain pain-relieving chemicals popularly known as endorphins and serotonin.


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