By Li Zheng and Maryann Stern

A recent report by Goodbody has said that 80% of Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives. This is a huge number and, therefore, it comes as no surprise that there is a loss of three million years of productive life each year in the U.S due to back pain. Furthermore, a whopping $50 billion is spent every year on the treatment of back pain.

What can cause back pain?

Back pain may be due to strained muscles or ligaments, muscle spasms, muscle tension, herniated disks, arthritis, spinal stenosis, injuries, or fractures. While physical therapy, diet, lifestyle changes, injections, and even surgery are all available options, acupuncture can turn out to be quite effective in relieving chronic pain such as back pain, neck pain, arthritis, headaches, migraines, knee pain as well sports injuries.

How Does Acupuncture Work

Chinese people believe in the balance of the body’s energy and that disease is often a manifestation of imbalance in the body. Acupuncture aims to restore the flow of energy in one’s body. It involves using very thin needles that are inserted into the body at various depths. These needles are inserted at specific acupuncture points all over the body. The needles are allowed to stay in for a few minutes or up to 25 minutes. When the needles are inserted, you may feel a small prick which is less painful when compared to vaccination or a blood draw procedure. You may have pressure and numbness sensation because the energy flow is changing.

Back Pain Responds to Acupuncture

When done under a qualified acupuncturist, it can result in stimulating the nervous system. This, in turn, triggers the release of chemicals into the brain, spinal cord as well as muscles. One gets a sense of relief or feeling of well-being as these chemicals produce changes in the body which helps in altering how you experience pain. The release of chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine helps in killing pain, improve sleep, and fighting depression. The most important thing is that acupuncture can restore the balance of your muscles and ligaments so that the knee or back joints will be in alignment. When the joints are out of alignment, your muscles can easily go into spasm causing severe back, neck, and knee pain. Furthermore, acupuncture can clear up the inflammation and reduce the swelling so that your body will have less scar tissue build-up which is very important to achieve the best result before and after the surgery. If the joints have chronic inflammation, the tissue damage will speed up and tissue repair will slow down.

Research on acupuncture and back pain

An interesting study was published in J. of Alternative Complement Med 2003. It compared an exercise group with exercise with an electro acupuncture group of 53 patients with chronic lower back pain. The result indicated that combining electro acupuncture with exercise, pain relief is much more effective even after one month of acupuncture treatment for lower back pain. This study makes perfect sense, that exercise is important to build strong muscles and move the joints around to improve circulation, but acupuncture can reduce the muscle tightness after the exercises so people with chronic back pain will not make the pain worse by doing strengthening exercises. That is why PT sometimes makes peoples’ back pain worse when there are ongoing pain and inflammation.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Li Zheng is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. She has 26 years of clinical experience. Here she is talking about neck and back pain acupuncture. One of the most common reasons for a doctor’s visit, back and neck pain, especially lower back pain, is the leading cause of disability worldwide today. Why not look toward acupuncture to relieve you of that nagging pain?