Could Acupuncture Be the Answer For Relieving Your Back Pain?

An expert gives advice on how acupuncture can actually help to treat your back issues.

Acupuncture, needles in woman's backphoto credit: shutterstock

Have terrible back pain? This treatment may just give you the relief you’re looking for.

Most people I see experience lower back pain from sitting and neck pain from looking at a computer all day. I start my acupuncture treatment of each new client by learning about their history to discover when and where their pain first occurred. Using this information, I create a profile, including things like any long-term injuries, or complaints of low energy or a weak immune system. Back pain can often be tied to poor circulation caused by sitting too long, or what we call blood stagnation, but traditional Chinese medicine also looks at things like kidney qi deficiency, which involves low energy and low immunity, and can lead to muscle pains. We often see this deficiency in people who are burning the candle at both ends. (Read up on what sitting is actually doing to your health.)

So, what is acupuncture?

Acupuncture uses different points on the body to stimulate different organ systems. So, if it seems poor circulation is to blame for your back pain, I would place needles in the area of the pain, inserting them into the tight band in the muscle. When I insert a needle, you might feel a little sensation on the surface, but once it’s in, you won’t feel anything. I leave the needles in for at least 20 minutes. If I suspect your pain is related to kidney qi deficiency, I would insert needles not just in the painful area but in those trigger points as well.

Anytime you insert an acupuncture needle in the body, it causes an inflammatory response, which draws white blood cells to the area for healing. The needles are inserted about an inch below the surface, so they can bring circulation into deeper muscle areas.

Typically, in addition to inserting the needles, I use an infrared heating lamp to help muscles relax and enhance circulation. Acupuncture also prompts the body to release endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that can help ease pain. Here are some more natural remedies to help relive your back pain.

How many treatments are necessary?

The number of treatments that are needed depends on the nature of the back pain, but generally people need about one to three treatments to find relief. If you continue the behaviours that led to the pain, such as sitting all day, which diminishes circulation by pressing your hip on your femoral artery, it’s likely that you will need to come back for further treatment.

Acupuncture and massage work well together, so I often refer clients to see an on-staff massage therapist as well. Acupuncture can reach areas that are difficult for a massage therapist to get to, without causing much pain. Accessing these points beforehand makes for a less painful and more relaxing massage.

Suka Lang is a registered acupuncturist and the owner and founder of Acupoint Wellness Centre in Vancouver.

Unsure which type of back pain you have? It’s time to speak to an orthopedic surgeon. 

Originally Published in Best Health Canada