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Acupuncture For Chronic Back Pain

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Back pain (especially lower back pain) is a common chronic pain issue that can be managed with both medical and traditional acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese physical therapy that has become a popular and well-researched method for managing this pain. Medical acupuncture is a westernised adaptation of this that uses different techniques to treat pain.

How Does Acupuncture Help Back Pain

Traditional Chinese acupuncture is a therapy based on the idea of energy flows through the body. Treatment consists of inserting needles at various pressure points on the body and through the skin. Needles are not meant to cause pain, harm, or discomfort.

A Traditional Chinese Acupuncturist will target energy (or “qi” in Chinese medicine) points for treatment. These are also called meridians, with some being of special benefit to painful nerves and muscles in the back.

A Medical Acupuncturist will take a slightly different approach. They feel and find areas of muscle that are tender and tight. Then they will insert needles into the area to help relieve the tension. It is commonly used to treat muscular related pain.

Acupuncture helps to stimulate the nervous system which helps to relieve pain. Acupuncture can also provide pain relief from other similar neuromuscular issues for which there may not be too many pain relief medication options.

These include:

  • Headaches

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Musculoskeletal pain

  • Post-Surgery Recovery

  • Sciatica

  • Whiplash

How Does Acupuncture Work?

It’s not completely understood how acupuncture works. But, there are a few theories by which acupuncture is thought to work for back pain:

  • Stimulates nervous system: Trigger points stimulated by acupuncture could release chemicals from the spinal cord, muscles, and brain. Some of these could be naturally pain-relieving.

  • Releases opioid-like chemicals produced in the body: Along the same lines as the theory above, acupuncture may release pain-relieving chemicals. These naturally occur in the body and have similar properties to opioid pain relievers. (Hydrocodone or morphine are examples.)

  • Releases neurotransmitters: These are hormones that send messages regulating the on/off mechanisms of various nerve endings. Acupuncture may stimulate some that shut off pain.

Regardless of how it works, trials on acupuncture for treating back pain show great results with very little risk of side effects.

What you should know about back pain and acupuncture

Acupuncture is a safe therapy when you see a professional certified acupuncturist. Make sure your practitioner is fully certified and licensed.

People who have received acupuncture sometimes report soreness, bruising, and in rare cases minor bleeding at puncture sites. These issues should clear up and go away in a few days. It also poses little to no risk to overall health.

If you’re pregnant, certain types of acupuncture could stimulate labor and delivery. Talk to your acupuncturist about your pregnancy beforehand as acupuncture may not be appropriate.

If you take blood thinners (anticoagulants) or have a bleeding disorder, acupuncture may pose some health risks. Make sure to discuss your conditions and medications with your acupuncturist before therapy. Slight bleeding can happen during the therapy, though this is rare.

Needles are sterile and disposable and therefore will never be reused. But, make sure to keep puncture sites clean after each session to prevent risk of infection. Risk of infection is small if you see a licensed professional.

Considering Acupuncture For Chronic Back Pain

Acupuncture is an effective tool to help manage chronic back pain. Unfortunately in the UK acupuncture is not commonly covered by the NHS and is mostly seen in the private sector.

It is worth keeping in mind that one acupuncture treatment will not provide a cure for back pain. Whilst it will help relieve it, it’s likely you’ll need long-term treatment if you are having it for a chronic condition.

Acupuncture commonly takes numerous treatments over time for the best outcome.

Even if your first session was successful, expect to schedule more appointments. Also, expect that pain can and does usually return. If it does, you would likely benefit from scheduling another series of sessions.

Most people initially invest in a weekly session until they experience improvement. On average this will take 4-6 sessions appointments. After seeing some improvement, most people start scheduling sessions further apart, such as every other week, then monthly to help manage the pain in the long term and keep on top of it.

Medical Acupuncture With Kinetix Physiotherapy

At Kinetix Physiotherapy we offer medical acupuncture as a treatment option. If you wish to book an appointment for acupuncture please get in contact via any of the below:

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