Acupuncture and Low Back Pain

Back Pain can be reduced with the help of acupunctureWhen it comes to managing pain, acupuncture really outshines the rest as the most effective approach for fast results.

In our office, we treat pain several times a day if not more and most of them; patients suffering from back pain, whether it’s upper back, mid back or low back, we spend a lot of time using the timeless modalities of Chinese medicine; acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, herbs and sometimes herbal patches to set our patients up for success!

How does it work?

In Chinese medicine, the sign of pain is merely a blockage or stagnation in an area of a meridian; picture it like a traffic jam on the freeway. When a strain, sprain, injury, repetitive stress issue or any number of things occurs there is a blockage of Qi (Energy) and Blood. These two vital substances, which are necessary for circulation, cannot nourish the area so in turn, inflammation, weakness or pain will be experienced, it’s the body’s way of sending a signal to the brain that says “something is not right here!”

Acupuncture is the perfect treatment since it easily opens the blockage, allowing the smooth flow of Qi and Blood to heal the area, when the area is healed, the pain disappears.

How many treatments?

A valid question that patient’s ask is “How many acupuncture treatments will I need?” It all depends on the individual and how long or how severe the issue is, in addition each person’s rate of response can be completely different. We estimate 80% of patient’s have relief after the very first treatment; from there it’s a matter of how long an individual ‘holds’ their treatment. In the office we say, “When the pain comes back, you come back!” That could be a day or a week, depending on the nature of the pain, but also the individual’s daily activities, this will certainly feed the healing process or in some cases take away from it.

One thing that really sets us apart from other acupuncturists is when we treat back pain, we NEVER put the needles where the patient is experiencing pain. Within the Taiwanese style of acupuncture, this would cause trauma to an already traumatized area, instead we trust the meridian system and treat distally or away from the pain. This dredges the pathway or meridian, thereby clearing the inflammation locally and creating a clear path for healing. This is typically good news for nervous patients, it makes sense that when a patient is experiencing pain the last thing you want is a needle in it.  You might wondering, “So, if that’s the case then, where do you put the needles?” When we are using acupuncture to treat low back pain, we commonly use some points on the hands, the back of the hand specifically. The hands are a direct image to the low back area and once the needles are inserted, energy and blood flood the channel opening it up again and creating balance.  Pain can be one of the most debilitating things one might experience and acupuncture provides you with an opportunity to regain your quality of life again without surgery or endless medications.

Research studies

Research shows acupuncture for low back pain is successful.  At Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Oakland, Californiaa research study was performed to test the efficacy of acupuncture for low back pain.  640 subjects ranging from ages 17-80 with low back pain for more than 3 months participated in the study.  Exclusions to the study were: already having previous acupuncture or any blood clotting issues. Ten treatments were administered over seven weeks total with follow up phone call interviews at the 8, 26 and 52 weeks after the last acupuncture treatment. The study is complete and did, in fact, conclude that acupuncture was a valid form of treatment for low back pain.

An even larger study was done in Germany with 1,162 patients.  This was the largest investigation of acupuncture for the treatment of low back pain vs. conventional non surgical treatments.  Modalities tested were acupuncture, drugs, exercise and physical therapy.  Researcher, Heinz Endres said, “Acupuncture represents a highly promising and effective treatment option for chronic back pain.  Patients experienced not only reduced pain intensity, but also reported improvements in the disability that often results from back pain and therefore quality of life”.  For this study, acupuncture was administered in 10, 30 minute sessions conducted over six weeks.  The results were astounding and although it is still considered an alternative treatment in the US, based on the findings of this study acupuncture is now covered by the country’s health insurance in Germany.

Endres says that acupuncture is a clearly useful for treatment for low back pain even if we can’t understand it.  “Just because we cannot explain exactly the mechanism by which a treatment works, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work”.

Pain in multiple areas?

If you have multiples areas of pain, for example, it’s not uncommon patient’s come in with low back pain on one side and neck pain, upper back pain and headaches on the other.  It appears that when one area is in pain, the body will compensate and with that compensation, other areas will respond negatively and become inflamed.  If you feel like this is you, no worries involved.  Acupuncture is built to treat several areas at once, so we have you covered.

How long are the treatments?

For follow up treatments, you’ll be here for one hour, but with needles in for 35-45 minutes, most people fall asleep or just rest deeply during the actual treatment.  Your first session with us includes the initial consultation and acupuncture treatment so expect to be here closer to one hour and a half.

Do you take insurance?

We do take insurance!  We are in network with Cigna and United Healthcare, we also take other insurances as out of network providers as long as you have acupuncture on your plan.  We do not take Blue Cross or Blue Shield at this time.  If you are not sure, email Christina@berkeley-acupuncture.com and she can help you figure out your benefits.

We look forward to seeing you soon!  If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!