Jun 29 2017

Is Acupuncture for the Back pain safe?


One of the most common reasons why many people seek acupuncture treatment is for relief of back pain.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice dating as far back as 2,500 years. This therapy makes use of thin sterile needles inserted in strategic places or acupuncture points on the body.


The rationale behind acupuncture is that these acupoints, when stimulated, will also stimulate the central nervous system. The central nervous system will then release neurotransmitters that will go into the muscle cells, the brain, as well as the spinal cord. When the pain-killing and stress-relieving chemicals are produced and released into the system, it will trigger a cascade of physiological effects, including reduction of pain, relaxation of muscles, and improvement of sleep.


Uin and Yang and Qi

There are two forces acting on the body – yin and yang. Yin symbolizes things that are dark, solid, cold, and still. Yang, on the other hand, symbolizes things that are light, hollow, warm, and in motion.

When the body is healthy, it is said that the yin and yang forces are in balance, so the qi or the energy flows freely along the different pathways or meridians found all over the body. When there is an imbalance in the yin and yang forces, the qi is blocked and its flow is interrupted. This interruption in the flow of qi is what causes pain, illness, and diseases.


Acupuncture aims to release the qi from whatever that’s blocking it and promote homeostasis in the body once more. With the forces balanced, there will be relief from pain.


Research and Studies About Acupuncture and Low Back Pain

Numerous studies have already been done to see if acupuncture is, indeed, beneficial.

  • This study involved 1,162 patients, all suffering from chronic low back pain. They were randomly divided into three groups. One group received traditional acupuncture treatment; the second group received sham acupuncture; and the third group received standard medical care. The study ran a total of six months. After the treatment period of 30-minute twice-a-week sessions, both groups receiving acupuncture treatment reported significant improvement in their low back pain, compared to those who received standard medical care. This study showed that patients with chronic low back pain can benefit from acupuncture therapy.
  • This study involved 638 adults who are suffering from low back pain. They were assigned randomly into four groups. One group received customized acupuncture treatment; the second group received standardized acupuncture treatment; the third group received simulated acupuncture; and the fourth group received standard medical care. All three groups receiving acupuncture care were treated twice a week for a three-week period and then once a week for a four-week period. At the 8th, 26th, and 52nd weeks, measurements of their pain and dysfunction were taken. Even at the 8th-week period though, all patients in the acupuncture group reported significant improvement in their symptoms, compared to the fourth group who received only the usual standard medical care. The improvement and benefits of acupuncture persisted for over a year, but as time passed by, the beneficial effects also diminished. Again, this study proved that acupuncture, indeed, works for people with low back pain.


Can I benefit from acupuncture?

Most of the people who try acupuncture have already tried other conventional methods but those methods didn’t work for them. Acupuncture, in the minds of many, always seems to be a last-resort option to try for their chronic back pain, but most acupuncturists will tell you though that this therapy should not be your last-resort option.

If you really want to benefit from acupuncture, what you should do instead is to first seek a clear diagnosis of what’s causing your back pain and have it treated by a spine care specialist. Once the underlying cause is addressed and treated, acupuncture can help you heal and improve your back pain faster.

Of note, one acupuncture treatment is not enough to reduce your low back pain. Your acupuncturist will work with you, assess your back problems and medical history, and then individualize a treatment plan just for you. This treatment plan will include the frequency of your therapy and the number of treatments you will need.

For chronic low back pain, twice-a-week acupuncture treatments for several months may be recommended at first. When you see an improvement in the back pain symptoms, the period between your acupuncture visits will be lengthened to monthly treatments. For acute low back pain, the average number of acupuncture treatments is usually between 8 and 10 visits.


Is it safe and are there side effects to acupuncture?

Acupuncture therapy is generally safe and produces no side effects. However, for acupuncture to be really safe and effective, it should only be done by a trained and experienced acupuncturist.


Are there risks to acupuncture?

There is the risk of infection if the needles were not sterilized properly or if the needles came into contact with contaminated objects. There is also the risk for punctured organs, but this type of injury is very rare.


What are the contraindications for acupuncture?

There are contraindications, too, for acupuncture, so if you have a pacemaker or have blood disorders like hemophilia, acupuncture is not for you. This therapy is also contraindicated in patients with skin diseases and skin disorders. Acupuncture is also not recommended if you’re taking illicit drugs or intoxicated.

If you’re suffering from back pain due to pregnancy, know that there are some precautions as well. The needles should not be inserted in the lumbosacral and abdominal regions or other regions that might stimulate early labor or induce abortion.

If you’re thinking of adding acupuncture therapy to your back pain regimen, consult with your spine care specialist first. He understands your back pain and will know which will work for you or not. He can also refer you to a reputable, highly-trained, licensed acupuncturist.

Before choosing an acupuncturist, it’s also recommended that you research about his background and qualifications first. Make sure that he is qualified to perform this therapy and make sure, too, that his license is current.


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Douglas Won, M.D.

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The first in Texas to perform micro-endoscopic laser spine surgery with an incision as small as 3 mm, Dr. Won advises multiple international spine technology companies and has helped design many groundbreaking tools for the minimally invasive spine surgery industry.

Dr. Won also innovated the Pain Mapping procedures, this diagnostic study helps to pin point the pain generator so that we can provide the least invasive spine procedures, LuMINI.

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