I find that my patients are often amazed at the results of acupuncture for pain treatment. It feels really miraculous to get up off the table after 30 to 45 minutes and just feel better, but people do! That naturally leads them to say, “Wow, acupuncture works” followed quickly by, “how does acupuncture work?”
So I’ve decided to answer the question! I do in clinic every day, you know, so hey - might as well do it here too! Today my topic is BACK PAIN and how Acupuncture for back pain works. I’ll be doing new installments of this “how acupuncture works” series over the course of the year focusing on different aches, pains and ailments, so do stay tuned!
HOW ACUPUNCTURE WORKS - Part One
Acupuncture and Back Pain - How Does It Work?
Okay… so how does acupuncture actually work? Well, it works on several levels:
And the list kind of goes on but I think this is some of the more relevant information. One of the especially great things about Acupuncture for Back Pain is that the needles can go right to the heart of the problem. Sometimes back pain is quite deep and there can be sacro-iliac joint involvement, as well as nerve involvement. Acupuncture can go through all the superficial tension and get right to the heart of the issue, and on its way it helps to relax the muscular layers all the way down. Getting Acupuncture before a massage or chiropractic appointment can greatly enhance your results since much of the tension will be gone before you get to the LMT or DC.
Acupuncture and Back Pain - Treatment
Acupuncture treatment for backpain breaks out into three primary approaches:
Distal only treatment can be extremely effective, often reducing high level pain by 50-85%, sometimes even 100% in a span of approximately 30 minutes though the initial results can be felt within about 2 minutes time. Achey points are found in areas of the body distal (far) from the acute pain area and are chosen based on channel relationships (a discussion for another day! Suffice to say, channels are paired and connected and these relationships can be used to balance the system). By needling these distal yet related and achey points, you can kind of draw the stagnation away and balance the system which relieves pain.
A combination of local and distal points is most traditional, however. Acupuncture will be applied to the local pain area to move Qi and Blood and also applied to distal points that can open the affected channels to encourage Qi and Blood flow and that can tonify weak (deficient) energetic meridians.
Sometimes electro-acupuncture is also used for back pain in the local area - a TENS unit is attached to a few of the needles (black box, 9v battery) and a very mild electric current is run through the needles. This helps to stimulate the needles to increase the effect of the treatment, AND we know from modern research that it also causes measurable endorphin release in the blood stream which reduces pain and inflammation.
Cupping, Gua Sha, Moxibustion and Tuina are all common accessory therapies used to treat back pain as well. Cupping (application of suction using glass, silicone or bamboo cups) and Gua Sha (a thrumming type massage using a gua sha board or tool, most commonly a ceramic Chinese soup spoon) are both considered myofascial release techniques by modern medicine. In Chinese medicine, they release stagnation from the body. Moxibustion is heat application using an incense stick made of Mugwort, though a heat lamp is often used instead to affect a larger area, and Tuina is Chinese bodywork or massage.
Stay Tuned, Book In!
Stay tuned for more of my "How Acupuncture Works" Series over the course of the year, I've got a good number of them planned, and if there are specific aches, pains or ailments you want to know more about - ask me! I'd love to answer your questions in a blog post dedicated just to you!
Until then, comment below, email me through my website or book in for consult or appointment anytime.
Yours in Health,
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Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.