Holistic medicines are becoming more popular than ever. More and more people are recognizing the dangers of drugs on the market and are turning to natural remedies to relieve pain. Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years to relieve back pain, but many wonder if it’s worth it and how effective it is.
What is Acupuncture?
An acupuncture treatment entails inserting thin needles through your skin. The positioning of the needles is a vital aspect of the treatment. An acupuncturist strategically places the needles based on the pressure points associated with your problem.
Traditionally, the Chinese believed the needles balanced the flow of energy, more commonly referred to as qi. Western acupuncturists believe placement of the needles stimulates the nerves, connective tissue and muscles, which is what helps you reduce pain. Some practitioners believe acupuncture enhances circulation, which in return, boosts your body’s natural pain-killing abilities.
How an Acupuncturist Performs the Treatment
The first portion of an acupuncture treatment begins with an examination. The acupuncturist will examine your back and possibly your tongue. The practitioner will look at the color of your face and may take your vital signs, in particular, your pulse. The initial consultation will take about 60 minutes while each acupuncture appointment usually takes 30 to 40 minutes.
After placement, the needles remain in your body for 10 to 20 minutes, as noted by the Mayo Clinic. You’ll usually receive five to 20 needles. When the acupuncturist applies the needles, he or she may situate in them in areas in your back and some possibly not in your back. The practitioner may move or twist the needles or apply heat or electrical pulses to them.
Acupuncture’s Effectiveness at Relieving Back Pain
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), back problems are the number one reason people see an acupuncturist. For those with chronic lower back pain, acupuncture may be an effective treatment method.
Several studies compared by the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine indicated a link between acupuncture and back pain relief. Of three-three studies consisting of more than 2,100 patients, 22 were used to compare. All of the 22 studies compared chronic lower back pain over the course of more than three months.
Some of the studies compared “sham” acupuncture with true acupuncture. The sham acupuncture treatments consisted of people inserting the needles in the wrong locations or only superficially. Reviewers noticed a difference in the results from the “placebo” group and those who received actual acupuncture treatments. Studies revealed the acupuncture isn’t always effective. For those who it did affect, some only received moderate pain relief.
A study comparison published by the National Institutes of Health showed sham and genuine acupuncture have an effect on lower back pain. According to a team of researchers guided by Dr. Daniel Cherkin of the Group Health Center for Health Studies located in Seattle, WA, both sham and real acupuncture may benefit patients who have lower back pain, as indicated by the study review. Moreover, this comparison determined any form of acupuncture is superior to other forms of pain relief.
Side Effects of Acupuncture
Most people respond well to acupuncture. Generally, as long as you go to a reputable practitioner, you won’t experience a great deal of side effects. Few people experience any side effects at all, and for those who do experience side effects, they’re usually mild. For instance, you may feel soreness as a result of the needles going through your skin. It’s also possible you’ll bleed, or you may notice bruising around the site. Usually, this doesn’t happen when you’re seeing an experienced acupuncturist.
Certain people should avoid using acupuncture for back pain relief. If you have a bleeding disorder, the chance of you bleeding or bruising from a needle are increased. This includes if you’re on a blood thinner such as Warfarin. Those who have a pacemaker may not be able to undergo acupuncture treatments. During acupuncture treatments, mild electrical pulses travel to the needles in some cases. The pulses may interfere with the operation of your pacemaker. Always notify the acupuncturist if you have a pacemaker. Although certain acupuncture treatments are beneficial to pregnant women, some acupuncture treatments interfere with a healthy pregnancy and could stimulate delivery prematurely.
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