Acupuncture is a significant element of Chinese medicine. It has been traditionally used to treat pain and has also been used for stress management and wellness. Acupuncture is used to balance the flow of energy known as chi or qi (chee). This energy may flow through meridians that are pathways in the body. It is believed that this energy can be re-balanced by inserting very thin needles through the skin at specific points along these meridians.
Although acupuncture can be used for many types of pain and other conditions, this post will concentrate on its use for lower back pain.
Lower Back Pain (LBP)
Lower back pain (LBP) affects as many as 70% of adults in industrialized countries during some point in their life.1
This causes an economic burden on both society and individuals. It is estimated that at least $100 billion is spent due to lower back pain yearly.2
There are many treatments for LBP, but no single remedy appears to be superior.4
For this reason, many LBP sufferers turn to alternative treatments, including acupuncture, to relieve pain and discomfort.5
Is acupuncture effective for LBP? An overview of systemic reviews looked at this question in 2015.6
A total of 16 studies were included in this review. These studies were of variable quality. The researchers came to the following conclusions:
- For acute LBP, acupuncture does not appear to be more effective than sham acupuncture in improving function, and inconsistent evidence that acupuncture is more effective at relieving pain than sham acupuncture.
- For chronic LBP, there is consistent evidence that acupuncture provides short-term clinical benefits on pain relief and functional improvement compared to no treatment or when added to prevailing interventions.
- It appears that acupuncture causes significant pain relief but no impact on the functional limitation on chronic LBP when compared to sham acupuncture.
To summarize this overview of the systemic reviews available, acupuncture can provide short-term clinically relevant improvement in pain and functionality in treating lower back pain when combined with conventional therapy.
Low Back Pain in Pregnant Women
Many studies have examined back pain in pregnant women. Rates of LBP in these women range from 25% TO 90%, with most studies estimating that 50% of pregnant women will experience it.7
One-third of these women will suffer from severe pain. This decreases their quality of life. Eighty percent of women suffering from LBP say it affects their daily routine, and 10% cannot work.8
The most common risk factors associated with lower back pain in women include a history of pelvic trauma, chronic LBP, and lower back pain during a previous pregnancy.9
Regular exercise prior to pregnancy may reduce the chances of developing LBP during pregnancy.
A study published in 2018 examined the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of back pain in pregnancy. Fifty-six pregnant women at a gestational age between 14 and 37 weeks who complained of lower back pain were included in the study. The subjects received up to six sessions. This study found a statistically significant reduction in lower back pain as early as the second acupuncture treatment. Improvement gradually improved with the number of sessions completed. No serious adverse effects related to the acupuncture were reported.10
Side Effects of Acupuncture
Acupuncture, like other treatments, can cause side effects. The most common adverse effects include bleeding, soreness, or bruising at the site of needle insertion. Other, less common risks include:
- Internal bleeding
- Hepatitis B
- Nerve damage
With the use of disposable needles, hepatitis B, and other infections are rare. It is important to note that the side effects of acupuncture are uncommon. Most people will tolerate acupuncture sessions with no adverse effects.
Acupuncture can be used for a variety of conditions, including:
- Chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting.
- Dental pain.
- Tension headaches and migraines.
- Labor pain.
- Lower back pain.
- Neck pain.
- Menstrual cramps.
This treatment is a popular alternative to traditional medications. Acupuncture can be an effective treatment for lower back pain in pregnant individuals and others who suffer from LBP. This treatment seems to work best for short term relief of back pain when combined with traditional therapy. As with most alternative therapies, more research is needed to determine best practices when utilizing acupuncture for back pain.
I have recently met a local acupuncturist and plan to get treatment in the next couple of weeks. I will let you all know how that goes. Luckily, the Protandim Tri-Synergizer product has eliminated my back pain. I am always searching for other treatments to help me live a healthier, happier life.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me. Have a great week, and stay safe!
I decided to try acupuncture for myself on October 29th. This was simply a wonderful experience. My goal was to improve circulation in my hands and feet. I don’t do well with cold weather and in Oregon, the cold season is here.
After a few minutes of standard medical questions, my time had come. I laid on the warmest, most comfortable bed you can imagine. It was beyond relaxing.
Hannah was awesome. I could barely feel the needles, and she was very friendly. She enjoys answering questions and it was clear she enjoyed her profession. I told her I wished I had tried this earlier in my life. It really improved my mood for the rest of the day.
The atmosphere, conversation, and warmth were amazing. If you haven’t tried acupuncture, I strongly recommend it! I will be going back for more sessions.
Take a look at the ad below. If you need any of these services and live in the Portland area, this is a great place to visit. These professionals are friendly and truly love helping people become healthy.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.
- Review Epidemiological features of chronic low-back pain. Andersson GB Lancet. 1999 Aug 14; 354(9178):581-5.
- Katz J. N. Lumbar disc disorders and low-back pain: socioeconomic factors and consequences. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery—American Volume. 2006;88(2):21–24. doi: 10.2106/jbjs.e.01273. [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
- Luo X., Pietrobon R., Sun S. X., Liu G. G., Hey L. Estimates and patterns of direct health care expenditures among individuals with back pain in the United States. Spine. 2004;29(1):79–86. doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000105527.13866.0f. [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
- Review Nonsurgical management of acute and chronic low back pain. Shen FH, Samartzis D, Andersson GB J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2006 Aug; 14(8):477-87.[PubMed] [Ref list]
- Review Complementary and alternative medicine in back pain utilization report. Santaguida PL, Gross A, Busse J, Gagnier J, Walker K, Bhandari M, Raina P Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep). 2009 Jan; (177):1-221.[PubMed] [Ref list]
- Liu L, Skinner M, McDonough S, Mabire L, Baxter GD. Acupuncture for low back pain: an overview of systematic reviews. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:328196. doi:10.1155/2015/328196
- Katonis P, Kampouroglou A, Aggelopoulos A, et al. Pregnancy-related low back pain. Hippokratia. 2011;15(3):205-210.
- Understanding peripartum pelvic pain. Implications of a patient survey. Mens JM, Vleeming A, Stoeckart R, Stam HJ, Snijders CJ Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1996 Jun 1; 21(11):1363-9; discussion 1369-70.
- Pregnancy and low back pain. Sabino J, Grauer JN Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2008 Jun; 1(2):137-41.
- Martins ES, Tavares TMCL, Lessa PRA, Aquino PS, Castro RCMB, Pinheiro AKB. Acupuncture treatment: multidimensional assessment of low back pain in pregnant women. Rev Esc Enferm USP. 2018 Jun 11;52:e03323. Portuguese, English, Spanish. doi: 10.1590/S1980-220X2017040303323. PMID: 29898168.