Back pain

These days, back, shoulder and neck pain have become almost silent epidemic – millions of people experience it, and often think of it as a normal condition given how busy, stressful or full people’s lives are.

The relatively recent shift from spending most of our time in some sort of active or physical activity, to today where so much of our time is spend sitting at a desk, it sadly is no surprise that this has become such a major problem.

In Five Element acupuncture we see pain as in some part coming from stagnant energy or Qi, so one major role of the needles is working to move that energy throughout the whole body, so every cell can be fed.


Research – Acupuncture for back pain

From a western medical perspective, there has been substantial support for using acupuncture to help relieve back pain. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines on best practice now recommend that GPs offer a course of 10 sessions of acupuncture as a first line treatment for persistent, non-specific low back pain*

Research has shown that acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment and at least as good as (if not better than) standard medical care for back pain (Witt 2006; Haake 2007; Cherkin 2009; Sherman 2009a). It appears to be particularly useful as an adjunct to conventional care, for patients with more severe symptoms and for those wishing to avoid analgesic drugs (Sherman 2009a, 2009b; Lewis 2010). It may help back pain in pregnancy (Ee 2008) and  work-related back pain, with fewer work-days lost (Weidenhammer 2007; Sawazaki 2008).

Acupuncture can help back pain by:

  • providing pain relief – by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987; Zhao 2008).
  • reducing inflammation – by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007;Zijlstra 2003).
  • improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility – by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling and bruising.
  • reducing the use of medication for back complaints (Thomas 2006).
  • providing a more cost-effective treatment over a longer period of time (Radcliffe 2006;Witt 2006).
  • improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises (Ammendolia 2008; Yuan 2008).

* National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence clinical guideline 88 – Low back pain.