Acupuncture for Back Pain

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

 

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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:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Internal bleeding
  • Convulsions
  • Hepatitis B
  • Dermatitis
  • 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!  

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

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