When you live with lower back pain, it may be difficult to enjoy your normal activities. You may experience tightness, swelling, and a decrease in your normal physical mobility. Being in pain for a long time can even cause you to develop depression, anxiety, or mood changes. To help enhance your quality of life, it’s important to find a treatment that relieves your chronic lumbar pain and inflammation.
Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that you can use in place of traditional treatments for back pain, such as prescription medications or surgery. It is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that is used to relieve conditions and ailments such as allergies or stress.
This type of therapy even helps reduce discomfort associated with a variety of conditions and diseases, such as nausea in people with postoperative pain and vomiting for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. While this alternative form of treatment may provide a boost to your wellness, can acupuncture help back pain?
Whether you are one of the many people who are interested in non-drug therapies or have a back condition that you haven’t been able to relieve by exercise or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, it may be time to learn if acupuncture is worth a try.
The following guide will help you discover the pros and cons of acupuncture therapy for your lower back, as well as how treatments like low-level laser light therapy for back pain may be suitable for you. You will also learn if you can take advantage of alternative treatments such as acupuncture in combination with our Curavi™ laser therapy belts.
What Is Acupuncture for Back Pain?
If you’re not already familiar with the history of acupuncture, the practice dates back to ancient times. The first mention of the treatment occurred at least 4,000 years ago when stone needles were used in China to treat a variety of disorders. Early acupuncture then spread to Korea, Japan, and other Asian countries. Acupuncture has been in the United States for about 200 years. Today, the most qualified practitioners receive certification and may even work in doctors’ offices or other health clinics.
The practice of acupuncture involves the insertion of long, extremely thin needles skillfully and nearly painlessly inserted into the skin. These needles are carefully placed on specific parts of the body that are said to be associated with certain health conditions. An expert acupuncturist can help you determine the part of the body or pathway that is linked to lower back discomfort.
During your session, the practitioner will place flexible needles about the diameter of a human hair into the areas that will help relieve your back pain. They may also place the needles through the skin on other parts of your body, depending on your medical history, your lifestyle, and your overall wellness needs.
Some people will notice a feeling of relaxation and pain relief during their first session, while others will see their symptoms decrease over time. Everyone is unique, so your experience may vary from what you’ve heard from someone else. Talk to your practitioner about what you can expect and when you should notice relief from pain. There are patients who will attend several sessions until their back injury or ailment is healed, while others will prefer to attend acupuncture appointments for a longer period of time.
How Does Acupuncture Help Relieve Back Pain?
Now that you know a little bit more about what is behind this therapy, you probably want to know how it relieves pain in the body. Acupuncture works with your natural pain-relieving systems to reduce discomfort, swelling, and tension. It is all thanks to chemicals found within your body known as endorphins.
It works like this: As the needles pierce through your skin, they send a signal to your nervous system to release the endorphins, or pain relief chemicals, throughout your body. At the same time, endorphins also work to enhance your mood and prevent mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. While you will feel a decrease in pain in areas like your neck or your lower back, you may also feel a boost of energy or a feeling of peace during your session.
Since acupuncture pathways are in places where nerves, muscles, and connective tissues are located, stimulation of these areas increases blood flow, which helps to drive oxygen and nutrients to the area. This helps to relieve pain over time, while also assisting in the natural healing of your muscles and connective tissue.
Is Acupuncture Proven to Reduce Back Pain?
Many adults with lower back pain appreciate the relaxing and calming effects of acupuncture. While these sensations can provide short-term relief, patients with long-term back problems will also want to know whether the ancient treatment has been proven to relieve pain. The good news is that acupuncture therapy has been studied for years to determine its effectiveness for a variety of back-related conditions.
According to researchers at the National Institute of Health, results from a number of scientific studies have shown that acupuncture can help to relieve lower back pain. In fact, clinical care guidelines issued by the American College of Physicians and American Pain Society recommend acupuncture as one of several non-drug approaches that should be considered by physicians for patients with chronic lumbar area pain.
It is especially helpful for patients who are not able to relieve their symptoms through the use of treatments such as over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relieving medications, exercise, or applying heat.
Which Meridians Are Linked to Back Pain?
Before you try acupuncture, it may help you to understand where your practitioner may place the needles. The key is finding the meridian pathways or acupuncture points that correspond with lower back pain. Needles will probably be placed on your lower back, but there are some other places on the body that can be linked to your condition. These are:
- Back of the knees: Acupuncturists have been placing needles on the back of the knees for ages to help loosen up the back and drive nutrients to the muscles. During your appointment, you will lie on your back so your practitioner can place the needles behind the kneecaps. They may also place needles in your lower back at the same time.
- Hands: The hands are a popular place for acupuncture treatment. While this sounds like a sensitive spot, you probably will feel nothing more than pressure from the tiny, flexible needles. Some of the most popular places to put the needles include the fingers and the place between your fingers and thumbs. You may even see them inserted into your upper wrist area.
- Hips: Since the hips are so close to your lower back, relieving pain and tension in this part of the body can also help to reduce discomfort in the lumbar area. Your practitioner will place needles in the back or sides of your hips. They may also put them in your low back area at the same time.
- Stomach: This pathway requires you to lie on your back. Your practitioner may complete this therapy while treating your hands at the same time. This pathway is also pain-free, even though it is a sensitive part of the body.
What Can I Expect from Acupuncture?
Most people wonder what they can expect from their acupuncture appointments and treatment sessions. The good news is that you can find an experience that fits your unique needs and preferences. Acupuncturists work in a variety of settings, from alternative medicine clinics to primary care offices. Some people like to visit a relaxing, spa-like environment, while others are more interested in a provider that can give them a physical and offer acupuncture care at the same facility.
When you have acupuncture treatment, you can expect a solution for lower back pain that does not involve surgical procedures or prescription drugs. The therapy may also relieve other ailments that you have at the same time. Expect to attend several treatment sessions over an extended period. Most health insurance plans cover acupuncture to treat chronic pain and other conditions, making many providers affordable for their patients.
Are There Risks to Acupuncture for Back Pain?
Some treatments for back pain come with risks or side effects. If you have back pain and are in relatively good health, you are probably a candidate for acupuncture. While relatively few adverse effects have been reported, it is possible to suffer injury from improper delivery of needles or non-sterile equipment. By choosing a reputable acupuncturist certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), you can ensure that you are receiving safe, hygienic therapy.
The risk of complications during acupuncture increases if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners. If you have a pacemaker, avoid treatments that apply electrical pulses to the needles. This can interfere with your device’s operation. Finally, talk to your OB/GYN if you are pregnant. Your doctor will most likely recommend that you reserve acupuncture for the pre-labor stage of delivery when you are almost ready to have your baby.
What Are Complementary & Alternative Therapies?
Since acupuncture is a non-drug treatment, you can combine it with other safe therapies such as laser light therapy, heat therapy, or massage. Since you do not have to have a surgical procedure or take time to heal like after an invasive treatment, you can also complete your acupuncture sessions while you stay on track with your exercise plan.
Our Curavi™ light therapy belts are an excellent complementary therapy for acupuncture because they have no known adverse side effects and do not require the use of prescription medication. They are also safe enough to use with a variety of other non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical back pain treatments. Each device uses an innovative technology known as photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT), formerly often referred to as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) for treating pain.
By wearing one of our three laser therapy belts for only 30 minutes per day, the medical-grade laser diodes will work to modulate pain and inflammation in your lower back, thereby reducing tension, tightness, and swelling. Choose from the CuraviUltra™, which provides up to 420 mW of medical-grade laser light, the CuraviPlus™, offering 800 mW of excellent coverage, and our premier device, the CuraviPro™, providing you with 1000 mW of professional-grade coverage to relieve mild to moderate aches, spasms, and inflammation.
Getting Started with Acupuncture
Now that you know more about acupuncture for pain relief, you may be interested in searching for an acupuncturist. Find a professional in your area by visiting the NCCAOM website. After you locate a few practitioners close to you, research their background and qualifications. When you make your choice, you can visit them for an introductory consultation.
Before your practitioner uses needles on your body, they will ask questions about where you are experiencing pain, as well as any other medical or wellness issues that you are having. They will also want to learn more about lifestyle choices, such as your diet and exercise routine, to determine if any other factors are impacting how you feel.
Once you and your acupuncturist review this information, they can create a customized treatment plan for your lower back pain. You will then begin your acupuncture sessions. To make each appointment more comfortable, wear loose-fitting clothing, hydrate beforehand, and take deep breaths throughout your treatment. This will help you to relax both your mind and body.
Stick with your acupuncturist for several sessions to gauge your symptoms and progress. Some people may notice that your benefits increase as you attend appointments, while others will notice relief almost immediately. No matter what your unique experience is, acupuncture can help you to find relief from your discomfort.