Acupuncture For General Back Pain
Acupuncture is a scientifically tested therapeutic technique that helps relieve back pain. Read on to learn more! We’ll help you make an informed, educated decision about choosing acupuncture as a back-pain treatment.
Facts About Back Pain
- Back pain is a very common reason for employees missing work.
- It is one of the most common reasons for doctor’s office visits.
- About 50% of working Americans have back pain symptoms.
- And, back pain is the #1 reason that patients seek acupuncture.
- Your back is a complicated structure made of muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones—all of which can cause pain and inflammation if injured.
- Even the simplest activities can cause back pain and injury. Sitting in an uncomfortable chair, sleeping in an odd position, lifting an object (even a lightweight one) or stretching your muscles can potentially cause back pain.
- There are many health conditions that also cause back pain, such as sciatica, skeletal irregularities, and more.
If you’re facing back pain, you’re certainly not alone. It’s a very common problem, which means that healthcare professionals (including acupuncturists) are very experienced at helping people with problems like yours. There are many things you can do to ease your back pain, and acupuncture is one of the therapies that you should consider adding to your arsenal.
So, how does acupuncture for back pain work according to Chinese medicine?
- Acupuncture is one of the key treatments found in Chinese medicine, and it has been used for at least 2,500 years—perhaps even as long as 7,000 years.
- Traditional Chinese medicine believes that our vital energy or life force, called chi or qui, flows through our bodies though pathways called meridians.
- This energy source needs to circulate freely if you are going to remain in good health.
- Properly-balanced chi will promote growth, healing, and restoration, but chi can become “blocked,” meaning it is no longer circulating the way it should.
- Acupuncture uses fine needles, inserted at very specific sites on the body, to unblock any dysfunction or blockage in the chi to restore your body back to health.
What are the other theories about acupuncture?
While that is the common Chinese medicine explanation, not all acupuncturists subscribe to that theory. There are a couple of other scientific theories as to how acupuncture works for back pain:
- Generally, Western doctors don’t subscribe to chi and meridians. Instead, they think of acupuncture points as areas that stimulate nerves, connective tissue, muscles, or glands in the body to produce results.
- Some doctors believe that acupuncture stimulates your nerves and sends your body’s own natural painkillers (neural hormones like beta-endorphins) to the painful areas of your body.
- Others suggest that acupuncture reduces inflammation and swelling, which reduces pain.
- There are also practitioners who believe acupuncture stimulates the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to produce additional hormones that relieve pain.
It’s very possible that all of these theories are true and that they work together to reduce back pain. More studies are being done each year to learn more about acupuncture and how it works.
Why should I try acupuncture for back pain?
Acupuncture is a gentle process that helps to balance and maintain your health and wellbeing in a natural way. If traditional treatments are not working, acupuncture is a smart choice.
Resting, doing specific back exercises, taking anti-inflammatories and painkillers, and physical therapy are all common back pain treatments, but they can only go so far. Acupuncture is a good addition to your arsenal of back pain treatments.
It can help you get your life back from chronic pain or injury, and it is a very simple, gentle, low-risk treatment that can help you reduce or eliminate the use of strong painkillers. Unlike strong painkillers, acupuncture for back pain has few to no side effects.
What is an acupuncture session like?
If you know what to expect ahead of time, you’ll have a more successful acupuncture session because you’ll feel more relaxed and in control. Here’s what an acupuncture appointment usually looks like:
- For back pain acupuncture, you will lie face down on a padded massage table.
- Your acupuncturist will insert approximately 5 to 20 needles into your back at the correct locations, depending on your specific back pain needs.
- During the insertion of the needles, you may feel almost nothing, or you may feel slight discomfort.
- Then, the acupuncturist will darken the room and you will lie still and relax for about 10 to 30 minutes while the treatment works. Most patients find this stage to be very relaxing.
- After the 10 to 30 minutes are up, your acupuncturist will return to remove the needles.
- They may insert needles again into different insertion points, repeating the same process as before.
- The tiny insertion points will heal very quickly after your acupuncture treatment, and you probably won’t notice them at all once the needles are removed.
- That’s it—you’re now free to go about your day!
How can I get ready for my acupuncture appointment?
An acupuncture treatment doesn’t require much preparation. You will probably want to wear simple, loose-fitting clothing. Your practitioner may ask you to change into a gown during the treatment. After all, they will need to access your back in order to do the treatment.
Also, simply knowing what to expect should ease any uncertainty you may have about the process. Ask your practitioner questions if you have anything you’re unsure about. They can help put your mind at ease before your first appointment.
How many treatments will I need, and how often?
It all depends on your specific treatment needs. Generally, you can expect approximately 2 to 3 sessions per week for a few weeks, probably more if you have a serious injury or a complex condition. These sessions are usually recommended 2-3 times per week at the beginning, and less frequently as time goes on.
How do acupuncturists know where to place the needles?
Before placing any needles, your acupuncturist will talk with you to find out exactly what your symptoms are, where your back pain is occurring, how long the pain has been going on, and more. They will base their treatment plan and needle placement on your answers to these questions.
Acupuncturists place the needles in extremely specific places on your body. According to Chinese medicine, the human body has about 2,000 acupuncture points that are all connected by “meridians.” They place the acupuncture needles on these points in a pattern that will unblock the energy flow along these meridians and achieve the desired result.
Whether your goal is to reduce pain and inflammation in your shoulders, loosen up a tight lower back, or heal faster from an injury, your practitioner will know how to place the needles to achieve your goals.
Does it work for injuries?
Maybe you’re suffering from a sports injury to your back, or maybe you injured your back while lifting an object at work or home. Pain when moving, a deep aching, tingling, numbness, and referral pain are all common symptoms of back injuries. Whether it is an acute injury or a chronic injury, you may be interested in acupuncture.
Thankfully, acupuncture shows a successful record with sports injuries. Acupuncture can improve motion and flexibility of stiff muscles, it can reduce inflammation, and more. Whether you were injured due to sports or any other activity, the results of acupuncture are promising!
Does it work for chronic back pain?
Chronic back pain can make your normal daily tasks miserable. It can impact your work, your sleep, your exercise and quality of life. And when you’re not experiencing success with rest, exercises, and medicine, you may want to consider acupuncture.
Acupuncture has been shown to provide real relief from chronic back pain. In fact, it may even work better than standard treatments! In addition to relieving back pain, acupuncture may increase your quality of life in other ways, helping you enjoy an overall sense of balanced health and wellbeing.
Does it hurt during the process?
No, not usually. Acupuncturists are dedicated to providing a gentle, painless acupuncture treatment.
This may surprise some people who have never had acupuncture before, but there are also some common misconceptions about the needles used. When you think of needles, you might be thinking of getting an injection or getting your blood drawn. Or, perhaps you picture sewing needles.
But acupuncture needles are different:
- They are about as fine as a human hair.
- Acupuncture feels nothing like getting a shot or getting blood drawn because the needles are much thinner.
- The needles glide smoothly into the skin because they are flexible and tapered at the tip.
So, when the right needles are used by an experienced acupuncturist, you will feel little to no pain.
How big are the needles?
Acupuncture needles have an average diameter of .00325 inches. That’s just a fraction of the diameter of your average hypodermic needle. As far as length, acupuncture needles come in three sizes: one-half inch, one inch, and one-and-a-half inches long. Also, the needles are not inserted at their full depth. Most of the time, they are only slightly inserted into the skin.
How long does it take?
Generally, the needles are only inserted for 15 minutes at a time. Most acupuncture treatments will have you in and out of the office in about 30-45 minutes, though it can vary depending on the treatment. For back pain and injuries, it may take up to an hour per treatment.
Is there any risk of infection with acupuncture?
No, the risk is very small. Acupuncturists usually use disposable, one-time-use needles that are fully sterilized. Sometimes they will use reusable needles, but these needles are always sterilized completely to eliminate the risk of infection. Your acupuncturist is very knowledgeable about eliminating the risk of infection, so you’re in safe hands.
Does acupuncture make you bleed?
No, blood loss and bleeding are extremely minimal in normal, healthy people. If you’re on blood thinners or you have any type of bleeding disorder, it is not recommended that you seek acupuncture.
Will I be sore after my acupuncture treatment?
Sometimes, acupuncture for back pain will cause some slight soreness and minor bruising. However, it’s not something to worry about. Any soreness typically dissipates in 24 hours or less. It is not normal for it to cause significant pain.
What training do acupuncture technicians have?
It depends on the country you’re in. In some countries, acupuncturists are required to also be licensed physicians. For this reason, many acupuncturists are medical doctors. These people have a master’s degree in acupuncture or Oriental/Chinese Medicine, and they’ve also gone through post-graduate clinical training at the doctoral level. However, not all acupuncturists are doctors.
If you’re not sure about your acupuncturist’s expertise, it’s always a good idea to ask them about their university education, their training, and their years of experience.
Is acupuncture safe for everyone—including children, pregnant women, and the elderly?
While not always recommended for every single situation, acupuncture is a gentle therapy that can treat a wide range of people!
- Yes, acupuncture for children is safe when done by an experienced acupuncturist. For best results, look for a practitioner who is familiar with children.
- Yes, acupuncture for pregnant women is generally regarded as safe. However, if you’re pregnant, you should consult with your doctor or obstetrician before getting acupuncture.
- And finally, acupuncture is safe for the elderly as long as they do not have any of the following conditions: bleeding disorders, pacemakers, or high doses of blood thinning medications.
As you can see, acupuncture’s gentle treatment method is suitable for most patients.
Who should not get acupuncture?
- Do not seek acupuncture if you have a bleeding disorder like hemophilia. Even though they are very small, the needles could cause bleeding and bruising.
- Do not seek acupuncture if you have a pacemaker. The mild electrical pulses may interfere with your pacemaker’s operation, making acupuncture an unsafe back pain therapy for you.
- Take caution if you are on blood thinners. Your chance of bleeding or bruising is highly increased when you’re on blood thinners, so consult with your doctor before seeking acupuncture treatment.
If none of those conditions apply to you, you’re likely a good candidate for acupuncture! To ensure the ultimate safety, your acupuncturist will consult with you and ask you questions before your first treatment to make sure acupuncture is a good choice for you.
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