Does Acupuncture Actually Work for Back Pain? A Doctor Explains

acupunctureBack Pain

Acupuncture is becoming increasingly common for many of the issues you may deal with during your lifetime. As it becomes more popular, researchers study what else this alternative medicine works for. One well-researched area is acupuncture for back pain, and it has been backed by doctors.

Doctors agree that this alternative can lessen or cure your back pain without all the side effects that over the counter or prescription medications can cause. It also lasts longer than most medications, and it may eventually cure you of your back pain for good.

Before you can decide to use acupuncture for back pain, however, it is important to understand more about this method. You should first learn what this alternative medicine actually is and how it can help your back pain. Then discern what doctors say about it, and how to find a professional acupuncturist in your area.

What Is Acupuncture?

This treatment originated from traditional Chinese medicine more than 2,500 years ago. During treatment, practitioners insert tiny needles into your skin. They choose specific areas of your body called pressure points. And each pressure point relates to certain ailments.

Acupuncture is recognized as a legitimate alternative medicine by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians, and both organizations agree that doctors should at least consider the treatment for their patients.

When done in a professional setting, this alternative medicine is completely safe. It doesn’t usually have any side effects, but sometimes you may notice slight bruising or very light bleeding. This treatment method isn’t intended to cause harm or to be painful, either.

While some people may be turned off by the idea of needles being placed into their skin, you can rest assured knowing that there is no pain or very little pain involved with the treatment. Professional acupuncturists are trained to make the treatment as easy and stress-free as possible, and once you get your first treatment, you’ll likely be able to relax at the next session. As soon as you see that there is nothing to be afraid of, you’ll understand the hype behind this alternative medicine.

A Doctor Explains How Acupuncture For Back Pain Works

Dr. Andrew Weil explains in depth how this method of treatment works to reduce back pain. When a patient is suffering from back pain that causes muscle aches, shooting or stabbing pain, lessened flexibility, and range of motion, difficulty standing up or sitting up straight, or the inability to stand for extended periods of time, this treatment option may be a beneficial treatment option for them.

Dr. Weil explains that this alternative medicine can treat back pain just as well or more effectively than standard medication can. Through a study backed by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it was found that after 8 weeks, those patients who received this treatment showed significant improvement over those who received standard treatment for their back pain. In all instances, with continued treatment alternative medicine allowed for long term treatment with little side effects.

In order for this alternative medicine to work, your body’s pressure points must be stimulated. Since there are more than 2,000 pressure points in your body, doctors adamantly encourage only allowing a professional to perform this treatment on you so that you know you are getting the correct treatment and to ensure clean and proper tools are used.

When the pressure points are stimulated, a flow of energy that is called Qi (pronounced “chee”) is created and travels along pathways in your body. This stimulation works to correct any imbalances in the flow of energy throughout your body.

Doctors Explain Energy Flow In Your Body

Studies backed by doctors indicate that this form of treatment is beneficial and sometimes preferred over modern medicine. The reason for this is that when Qi is unable to flow along the pathways, also known as channels, due to an obstruction of some type, pain may occur. This type of pain can’t always be fixed with modern medicine, as it is all about the energy flowing.

When this occurs, acupuncture treatment works by breaking up the obstructions and allowing Qi to flow regularly through your body again. Not only will this help with the pain you are experiencing, but it will also help with an overall sense of well-being.

With modern medicine and pain killers, the obstructions that are blocking the flow of energy in your body will not remedied. You will only be treating the symptoms of the pain and not the underlying cause of the back pain. This means that the pain will likely return shortly after the medicine wears off.

Acupuncturists, on the other hand, are trained to use alternative medicine to remove those obstructions, allowing the Qi to flow freely. This allows the pain to stay away for longer periods of time, although it may return eventually. You will have to have more than one treatment with an acupuncturist for the results to be accurate, but eventually, the time between each treatment will increase, as the obstruction will stay gone longer each time.

Other Doctor Opinions About Alternative Medicine

Many doctors say that the benefits come from stimulation of your central nervous system because the needles cause chemicals to be released into your muscles, spinal cord, and brain. When this occurs, your body may stop feeling the pain so severely (or altogether!), and it also could help with an overall sense of well-being.

Other doctors lean more toward the theories that this alternative medicine releases endorphins into your body that inhibit the pain. Still, others think that the chemicals released cause natural opioids to be released into your body. Either chemical can lessen the effects of pain and promote deep sleep.

That is not where the theories stop, however. Some doctors believe that your entire brain chemistry is changed with the use of this alternative medicine because neurotransmitters (which encourage or inhibit nerve impulses) and neurohormones (which can change how an organ functions) are released into your body.

Despite many different theories from doctors, most doctors seem to agree on one thing: acupuncture for back pain really works.

The Techniques Commonly Used For Back Pain

The types of alternative medicine techniques that acupuncturists and doctors alike agree may help with back pain include:

  • Electro-acupuncture
  • Auriculo-therapy: involving the ears
  • Cupping
  • Tuina: A form of massage
  • Guasha: a technique involving scraping or rubbing of the skin
  • Stagnant blood release
  • Moxibustion: Acupuncter using fire to heat the needle

How to Find an Acupuncturist Near You

A simple google search of “acupuncturist near me” or “acupuncture in my area” will lead you to the acupuncturists near you. You will likely be surprised at home many are in your area, as this practice is becoming increasingly common.

You can also ask your primary physician if they can recommend an acupuncturist to you, as they may know a professional who is licensed, talented, and trustworthy. Some traditional doctors do practice this, as well, so you may be able to find a primary physician who can do this alternative medicine technique.

What to Look For in a Professional Acupuncturist

When looking for and meeting an acupuncturist, there are a few things you should know about them before scheduling an appointment. You should make sure that the professional:

  • uses sterile and disposable needles
  • is licensed
  • follows state and national standards
  • is familiar, comfortable, and experienced with the technique you desire
  • makes you feel comfortable
  • is up front about pricing and number of visits recommended

Other Alternative Medicine Uses

Pain is the most common issue treated this way, but there are many other conditions treated, as well. Some of the other ailments treated with this alternative medicine include:

  • headaches or migraines
  • fibromyalgia
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • recovery from surgery
  • sciatic nerve pain
  • temporomandibular joint disorder (otherwise known as TMJ)
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • weight loss or gain
  • allergies
  • neck pain
  • knee pain
  • osteoarthritis
  • hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause
  • discomfort stemming from cancer treatment
  • intense menstrual cramps
  • eye strain
  • weakened immune system
  • carpal tunnel
  • addiction

Final Thoughts On How Acupuncture Actually Works For Back Pain

In recent years, alternative medicine has become more researched than ever in the United States. With the many different techniques, pressure points, and treatments available through this alternative medicine, it is also becoming increasingly common with patient’s as well.

Most commonly, acupuncture for back pain is the most sought after treatment, with many case studies and patient testimonials to back the idea. For your safety, find highly trained, licensed professional. That ensures that the side effects are non-existent to minimal.

If you suffer from pain in your back, this increasingly popular alternative medicine may be an option you should highly consider. Discuss it with your doctor, first, and then meet with an acupuncturist that you are comfortable with to decide on a treatment plan. You never know, this alternative medicine may be life-changing for you!

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