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.