Back Pain

Back pain affects people of all ages and walks of life. Considering that back pain can be a symptom of a variety of serious medical conditions, physicians have to run many tests to determine the true cause of the pain. According to statistics, however, the majority of back pain is non-specific (that is, all tests come back normal), and physicians switch their focus to pain reduction.

While a number of treatment options are available, such as pain management injections, physical therapy, or, in extreme cases, orthopedic surgeries, acupuncture for back pain, when compared with other options, can often provide fast relief with minimal side effects. Also, according to the latest research findings, for back pain, acupuncture can be more effective when it’s used in combination with other forms of treatment, particularly physical therapy, osteopathic and/or chiropractic manipulations. Acupuncture for chronic back pain can often be a stand-alone treatment modality. And you should definitely consider acupuncture for your back as an alternative before you agree to drastic, invasive procedures such as surgeries.   

Benefits of Acupuncture for Back Pain

When we hear the word acupuncture, we usually think of needles. It’s true that acupuncture treatment involves needles, but acupuncture needles are nothing like the thick, hollow intradermal needles that nurses and physicians use for injections. Acupuncture needles are considerably thinner, approximately between one-fourth and one-twelfth of the injection needles’ thickness. But more importantly, modern acupuncturists in the west use other modalities as well as needles, such as cupping, acupressure, gua sha, tui na, or moxibustion. In some cases, the use of acupuncture needles for your back may be minimal or even unnecessary. 

What Are the Acupuncture Points for Back Pain? 

Certain acupuncture points—SI 3 Houxi, LI 4 He Gu, Ling Gu & Da Bai—are indicated for back pain. Most points—Ki 3Taixi, UB 60 Kunlun, Yaotong, UB 18 Ganshu, UB 23 Shenshu, GB 21 Jianjing—have restricted indications for the upper, mid, or lower back pain. The only problem is that selecting acupuncture points solely because of their indications will usually give you only temporary relief. To make sure that your back pain doesn’t come back, it’s important to find the cause (root) of the problem, which requires skills. For example, many patients who receive acupuncture for back pain in NYC report feeling better when the treatment focuses on stress relief, more often though in the cases of acupuncture for upper back pain than for lower.     

Can Acupuncture Help a Pinched Nerve in the Back? 

In theory, if a nerve is compressed by a herniated disc, then acupuncture would not help. But in reality, in the majority of cases in our experiences, acupuncture does help. We suspect that the pinched nerve is located in soft tissues rather than bones and cartilages, and acupuncture works very well for knots in the back because when muscles and connective tissue entrap a nerve, such areas feel like “knots.” 

How Long Does It Take for Acupuncture to Work for Back Pain? 

How fast acupuncture can relieve back pain depends a lot on what causes the pain. The improvement can be almost instant if the causes of pain are the knots in the back, and the acupuncturist found and managed to reach the right knot. (Actually, for knots in the back, acupuncture often works better in combination with cupping and/or tui na.) 

How Does Acupuncture Work for Back Pain? 

Scientists have come up with several mechanisms of how acupuncture works in general and specifically for back pain, but their explanations remain only theories. 

What Are the Side Effects of Acupuncture for Back Pain?    

 Theoretically, acupuncture can damage nerves and blood vessels at the insertion site, but in reality, it happens rarely, and because the needles are thin, the damaged tissues heal quickly. 

Physical Therapy for Back Pain

Roughly 80% of people experience low back pain during their lifetime. However, research has shown that 74% of those that suffer from back pain will return to work within four weeks, and over 90% in three months or less. Treatment with a physical therapist, body mechanics education, and an active exercise program, like Pilates rehabilitation, will reduce disability and prevent future episodes of pain. Physical Therapists use their knowledge of bones, discs, joints, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and nerves to treat the entire back. Treatment can increase circulation, slow soft tissue breakdown, improve mobility, and decrease inflammation. 

Lumbar Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is an age-related process in which patients experience a narrowing of the spinal canals. The degenerative process includes a loss of disc height, hardening of the ligaments, and bone spur formation. Stenosis can also be caused by other conditions, such as spondylolisthesis, trauma, or post-surgical complications. The mechanical compression and blood flow congestion experienced as a result of stenosis can cause severe pain that often radiates into the buttocks and thighs. Tingling, numbness, and leg weakness may occur, and symptoms are often worsened when standing, walking, or bending backward. Rehabilitation with a physical therapist can provide relief through stretching, strengthening, joint mobilization and manipulation, aerobic exercise, and activity modification. It is important to work closely with both a physical therapist and a physician. 


Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine. There may be one curve (“C” curve) present or two curves (“S” curve). Scoliosis is technically defined as a lateral curve of the spine that is greater than 10 degrees. Approximately 2-3 million people have scoliosis, and there is no cure for the problem. In most cases (~80%), scoliosis is idiopathic, meaning there is no apparent cause. It affects all age groups. Symptoms may include pain and fatigue and, in severe cases, difficulty with breathing, digestion, and walking. Treatment of scoliosis typically consists of bracing for moderate curves and surgery for severe curves. However, a prescribed physical therapy exercise program can decrease pain, stretch tight muscles, and strengthen the core muscles. We are certified in the Schroth method of treatment through the Barcelona Scoliosis Physical Therapy School, which provides high-quality education and care to those with scoliosis. Learn More (link to Scoliosis page). 

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