The prevalence of back pain and the number of patients seeking care with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies in the US has increased.
Evidence suggests complementary therapies like acupuncture, spinal manipulation, massage, yoga, tai chi, chiropractic, biofeedback and mindfulness-based stress-reduction treatments can be helpful for back pain without drugs or surgery.
These therapies can help ease muscle tension, relieve pain, and correct posture while strengthening muscles and improving joint stability.
The most prevalent CAM therapies for back pain in the US are spinal manipulation, acupuncture, and massage.
Acupuncture and Back Pain
Lower Back Pain (LBP) is one of the most common types of chronic back pain and is often caused by lumbar muscle strain and sprains. Adults between the ages of 18 to 64 years represent 72% of all low back pain healthcare visits.
There are many studies on treatment methods for lower back pain, including the efficacy of acupuncture in managing this pain. In a comprehensive study, 454,920 patients with at least one of the three chronic pain conditions including headache, low back pain and osteoarthritis were treated with acupuncture. Effectiveness of acupuncture was rated as marked or moderate in 76% of the patients.
A meta-analysis reviewing nearly 20,000 people for chronic pain, including chronic back pain, found that those who received real acupuncture compared to those who received sham acupuncture or no acupuncture, experienced 50% improvement in chronic pain.
The study concluded, “Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option.”
More recently, a systematic review and meta-analysis of effects of acupuncture on pain and function in non-specific low back pain, found that acupuncture is more effective at pain relief than sham acupuncture or no treatment at all. Acupuncture with usual care methods for back pain is more effective than just usual care alone, making acupuncture an important supplemental treatment to usual care methods, according to this study.
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.