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Acupuncture for lower back pain

What is Acupuncture?Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese medical practice which has its roots in ancient China, dating back more than 2000 years. Now days it normally involves inserting very thin single use needles into specific points in the body. These points are known to have certain effects on the body, and knowing which points to use and when is the art of the acupuncturist.

How does it work?The traditional Chinese view of an acupuncture and how it works always involves Qi. The idea of Qi can be thought of loosely as energy that flows around our body keeping every thing functioning correctly. When there is a blockage in this flow, there will be a reaction which is normally some sort of pain or dysfunction. Acupuncturists will use the different acu points on the body to unblock areas that need unblocking and encouraging the normal flow of Qi. The Biomedical view on how acupuncture works is not entirely confirmed, but whether it works or not is clear. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognizes acupuncture as having an effect on the treatment of more than 60 common health problems.

Another systematic review found that acupuncture had effects on more than 115 different conditions (link). Both the systematic review and the WHO recognize Acupuncture as being especially effective for chronic lower back pain. Both putting lower back pain in the top eight conditions most effectively treated by acupuncture.

One proposed theory on how acupuncture works as far as Bio medicine goes which is gaining recognition is the Idea that the fascia that encases and connects nearly every tissue in our bodies in a three dimensional lattice, engages with the needle physically when it is inserted into the body. The result of this physical interaction between the collagen fibers of the fascia and the needle causes nerve responses which are thought to stimulate areas of our brain, often in areas that are important for pain reception. I think of it like as if you were to find a nicely spun spiders web in your house. Imagine if you then got a pointy object like a stick and poked it. Even if you poke it near the edges, this poking can still be sensed by the spider on the other side of the web.

Can it help for lower Back Pain

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) acupuncture is effective in treating chronic lower back pain, and as explained this is supported by an extensive comparative literature review which analysed over 126 systematic reviews from all over the world (link).One study done in Germany concluded that compared to patients receiving only the normal rehabilitation, patients receiving both normal rehabilitation as well as acupuncture showed significantly better outcomes in pain reduction, physical function, general health and vitality (link).Another interesting study done in Iran compared three group. The study looked at pain relief provided by acupuncture alone vs Baclofen + acupuncture vs Baclofen only. The results that were published pointed out that the two groups of patients receiving acupuncture (Baclofen + Acupuncture and Acupuncture only) reported significantly better pain relief at the end of the trial than the Baclofen only group.(Link) Below is a chart showing the progress of 6 patients that I treated in my clinic over a period of 6 weeks. Patients ranged between the ages of 27 and 42 years old and 4 of them were female vs 2 males. All were treated for lower back pain.

The measurement format used was a well-known outcome measurement tool called MYMOP. (link). Its a simple questionnaire in which patients rate their main complaint or symptom from 0 (least severe) - 6 (most Severe), This tool is commonly used for research purposes, especially when looking into measuring pain levels.As can be seen, the initial pain rating given for each patient was different, but the general trend over a six week period was decrease in pain. The results above are not meant to indicate that all back pain can be reduced, but is rather an example of what has been done recently in the clinic.

Who should I see if I want acupuncture treatment for my lower back pain?

First of all, I recommend seeing a practitioner that is affiliated with a nationally recognized authority. This ensures a certain level of training and competence. Asides from this it is a matter of choice. There are two interesting studies showing that assorted styles generally have similar results. One study done in Germany investigated standardized acupuncture treatment protocols with personalized treatments or lower back pain. The results showed that both styles reduced the pain felt by the participants equally. In saying this, I did find one study that showed that the use of a certain category of points called the Luo Connecting points did improve normal acupuncture. It will be interesting to see where this goes .So if you would like to know more about how acupuncture works or if you would like to book a session please feel free to give us a call or you can email the office at

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