Acupuncture for Back Pain – How Effective?

Have you ever wanted to try acupuncture but were unsure whether or not it really works? Maybe you are hesitant because you are worried that it might be painful.

The following information will address some of these concerns, and hopefully shed some light on whether or not acupuncture can help with everyday problems like back pain.

History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture for Back PainAcupuncture is part of an ancient system of medicine from Asia known as Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM.

It is a therapeutic modality much like herbs or cupping that works with the body naturally to encourage healing.

The technique dates back nearly 2,000 years and is recorded in the “Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine”, one of the oldest medical texts in existence.

Although volumes of empirical evidence exist to validate its use, Western medicine has only recently begun to study acupuncture scientifically.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

The theory behind acupuncture and TCM is based on the concept of meridians. Meridians are essentially channels of energy that run throughout the body. When these channels are blocked or even over-stimulated, it can result in pain or disease.

Low back pain, for example, is most often the result of weak or blocked Qi (pronounced chi), one’s energy or life-force; while upper back pain is typically caused by excess Qi in the body, also referred to as congested heat.

Acupuncture uses long, fine needles which are inserted into certain meridians to either free up a blocked line or stimulate energy in that line. The process is virtually painless, and many actually find it quite relaxing.

Other complementary therapies, like Chinese herbs, are generally used in conjunction with acupuncture to further facilitate the healing process.

Causes of Back Pain

Back pain is one of the top reasons people seek medical care in the United States. There are a variety of causes of back pain, ranging from acute injuries to chronic diseases such as arthritis.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the root cause of back pain lies in an imbalance of Qi. Herbs and acupuncture help to restore this balance.

In a typical session, you will first be asked a series of questions which may include inquiries regarding your diet, lifestyle and other habits. The practitioner may also feel your pulse and exam your tongue.

Next you will be asked to lie on your stomach, and breathe deeply to relax. Fine needles will be inserted in your back, and possibly your arms and legs, then twisted gently to stimulate energy. You may feel a tingling sensation during this process.

Once the needles are in place, you will lie still on the table for several minutes. The lights may be dimmed and soft music played. This is simply to help you relax.

After 10 to 20 minutes, the needles are removed and you will be dismissed. The practitioner may ask you to drink plenty of water, take certain herbs or give you other instructions.Be sure and follow the instructions the practitioner gives you.

Research on Acupuncture and Back Pain

Current research supports the use of acupuncture for back pain. After a review of dozens of studies, researcher Eric Manheimer of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine stated that, “for people with chronic low back pain, [the] analysis shows that acupuncture is clearly effective in providing considerable pain relief.”

The studies collected underwent strict scrutiny by the research team, ruling out the possibility of placebo effect. And, the studies reviewed were from both inside and outside of the US.

Because of such research, acupuncture is becoming more and more mainstream. Although it is stilled viewed as alternative medical practice, many insurance providers are now covering this type of treatment. Check with your insurance company to see if acupuncture treatments are covered for your condition.


Remember that natural therapies such as acupuncture should complement and not replace conventional medical care. Always consult your health care provider before discontinuing medications or other treatment plans.

Discuss your interest in acupuncture with your doctor and feel free to share this article and other information. Open communication with your health care practitioners is a key to your healing process.

1. University of Maryland Medical Center News: Study Analysis Shows Acupuncture Effective for Treating Chronic Low Back Pain.