Lower back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek acupuncture care. It is one of the most common ailments and will affect almost everyone at some point in their lives. While most cases of lower back pain will resolve within weeks to months, research shows that up to 40% of cases will become chronic (1).
Chronic Lower Back Pain Acupuncture Study
Acupuncture treatment for lower back pain has proven to be one of the most effective methods for long term relief. In 2007, a study was conducted with 1162 patients afflicted with chronic lower back pain to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture (2). These patients were split into 3 groups; acupuncture, sham (fake) acupuncture, and conventional therapy (drugs, exercise, physical therapy). After 10 sessions, the response rate was 47.6% improvement in acupuncture, 44.2% improvement in sham acupuncture, and 27.4% improvement in conventional therapy. While there was little difference between real and sham acupuncture, what is amazing is that either one was almost twice as effective as conventional therapy.
What is the cause of back pain?
While the term “back pain” is usually lumped together as one, there are a variety of reasons for why a person is experiencing chronic pain. Some of the more common causes are muscle strain, slipped/herniated disc, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or even spinal stenosis. The acupuncture protocol being administered will vary depending on what the root cause of the problem is, thus that must be determined first. In my experience, the cases of lower back pain which are treated most effectively are due to muscle strains, arthritis, and/or fibromyalgia. This is not limited to just the lower back, but rather the entire body as well, whether it is (for example) a strain of the neck, or arthritis in the hands.
How is Acupuncture a natural painkiller?
The effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of lower back pain can be explained by a few theories. First, acupuncture is effective at releasing opioids, which are the body’s own, naturally produced, painkillers. Second, acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to increase the pain threshold level. Thus, the level of pain received by the brain is decreased. Third, acupuncture is very effective at promoting blood flow to specific areas of the body. By doing this, it can bring the body’s painkillers (opioids) to the area of injury or pain. Also, by promoting blood flow it can break up and stagnation of blood at the site which may be causing further pain.