Lower back pain, according to WebMD, is one of the top reasons that people seek medical treatment and chronic low back pain specifically is the number one reason that people seek acupuncture therapy. It is reported that up to 80% of Americans are affected by lower back pain at least once and many accept it as a part of life.
Common Causes for Lower Back Pain
The most common causes of lower back pain are in everyday occurrences, such as home improvement projects like painting and landscaping. These common motions can cause lumbar muscle strains and this area is especially susceptible because of the weight-bearing function and twisting and bending motions.
Overstretched and sprained muscles lead to inflammation, which can present itself in the form of pain, cramping, spasms and a decreased range of motion. Lower back pain is a symptom of the issues caused by these regular movements and if you have ever experienced lower back pain, you are very aware of the negative impact this can have on your daily life.
Lower back pain can be aggravated by simply sitting at our desk each day, walking to and from the subway station, and even laying down while sleeping. Acupuncture is a great way to treat your chronic lower back pain and an effective alternative to prescription medication.
Acupuncture: A Simple, Yet Effective Solution for Back Pain
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the body is made up of a harmonious balance of “yin” and “yang,” two opposing life forces.
When the yin and yang are in balance, the body is healthy. When there is an imbalance, it is said that our “qi” (pronounced “chee”) or life energy, cannot flow freely through our body’s pathways (meridians), which can then result in the pain that we experience. Acupuncture can release and stimulate blocked qi, relieving us from the pain.
The practice of acupuncture involves the insertion of 15 – 30 thin, hair-like needles through the skin at specific pressure points (there are approximately 2.000 in the body).
It is thought that the Central Nervous System (CNS) is stimulated, which triggers the release of chemicals into our muscles, brain, and tissues. This stimulation either alters the way we experience pain or produces changes that promote a state of well-being.
Acupuncture may also produce pain-killing chemicals called endorphins and natural opioids, that act as our body’s own pain killers. There are some studies that also support the idea that acupuncture may alter the release of our neurotransmitters, which can impact the function of any organ in the body.
In addition to the standard practice of simply inserting needles into various pressure points, a practitioner may also enhance the effects by applying pressure, heat or electrical stimulating to manipulate the needles.
There are specific pathways, or meridians, that are manipulated for lower back pain. These pressure points are located on the back of the knees, footpoints, lower back points, hand points, hip points, and stomach points. Your acupuncture therapist will target these areas in order to best treat your lower back pain. You may feel a slight tensing or tingling sensation in these areas as the muscles are stimulated.
After your session, you may feel calm or energized, depending on which areas received a release. It is recommended that you try a few sessions, and more and more insurance providers are covering this treatment as a reasonable course of action for the treatment of lower back pain.
Results from a number of studies, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), suggest that “acupuncture may help ease chronic low back pain…”, and a study reported by JAMA in 2012 followed approximately 18,000 patients who saw a 50% reduction in lower back pain, determining that acupuncture is an effective treatment option for medical professionals to recommend to patients.
Considering the dangerous effects of prescribed opioids for pain, such as addiction and even death, and the safe and effective treatment through acupuncture, it is highly recommended that this alternative therapy become your first course of action, rather than your last resort.