Back pain is by far the most common reason people seek a health care practitioner, with 80% of the world’s population reporting back pain at least once in their lives. In the United States, chronic low back pain is the single highest category of scheduled doctor visits.
The main causes of back pain come from strains (tears in muscles caused by sudden force), sprains (overstretching one or more ligaments in the back), herniated disks (a disc that bulges out of its normal place between two vertebrae, putting pressure on nerves) and sciatica (term that describes pain extending from the low back down into the buttocks and leg due to irritation of a larger nerve in the spine). These can happen from injuries, improper lifting, poor posture, weakening of supporting muscles and ligaments and degenerative changes.
How Does Acupuncture help back pain?
Acupuncture is best known for its ability to stop pain in general. It is effective in treating both acute and chronic back pain because it lessens the pain response locally as it relaxes nearby muscles. A negative pain cycle is broken when muscle spasms stop, adjacent muscle groups no longer compensate, range of motion then increases as the pain levels decrease. Acupuncture accomplishes this by:
- relax muscles: which slows spasms until they release
- decrease local inflammation by increasing local blood circulation
- reduce swelling
- stimulates the release of natural endorphins that diminish the pain response
When to get Acupuncture for Back Pain
Acute Back Pain
In an acute situation, you need to first determine how severe the injury is. If it is serious, or you are unsure, call 911 or go straight to the nearest hospital for proper evaluation. If the acute back pain is not that severe, the sooner you receive acupuncture treatments, the better the results. The reason is simple: it boosts the body’s natural healing mechanisms while inhibiting negative pain cycles from ever starting. This enables acupuncture to drastically reduce recovery time and stop injuries from becoming chronic.
Chronic Back Pain
Back pain that continues or lingers more than 3 months becomes chronic. It is important to know why the pain is there. Narrowing of the spine or a tumor pressing on lumbar spinal nerves is a medical emergency. Therefore it is recommended to receive a complete Western medical evaluation and diagnosis, including x-rays and MRIs when necessary. Chronic back pain that has been properly evaluated, and that does not respond to conventional treatments, almost always improves with acupuncture treatments. It does not matter how long the pain has persisted, acupuncture can still provide noticeable positive improvements, if not complete resolution of the back pain. And this is accomplished without the use of any over-the-counter medications or pharmaceuticals.
How Many Treatments Will I need?
Acupuncture treatments are specifically tailored to each individual depending on age, gender, lifestyle, past medical history and current health status. This guarantees a treatment plan that meets each person’s exact needs, but makes it more difficult to generalize overall responses. Even so, it is safe to say that acute back pain is usually successfully treated in 2 to 5 treatments over a 1 to 3 week period.
It is more difficult to generalize the length of treatment for chronic back pain because medications, prolonged inactivity, low morale & surgeries complicate treatment. Regardless, a person should notice a positive change in his/her back pain within 8 to 10 treatments over 1 to 3 months. Then an accurate prognosis for complete resolution of the pain can be given.