Using Acupuncture to Treat Back Pain
Our spines are amazing. A collection of 24 bones, called vertebrae, that are rigid enough to keep us upright, but flexible enough to allow for an incredibly wide range of movement.
When viewed from the side, a healthy spine is S-shaped, curving back at the shoulders and forwards at the small of the back and the neck. As the body’s main structural support, the spine also protects the vital spinal cord, an intricate network of nerves that control movement and transmit sensation throughout our body.
When it comes to back pain, most comes not actually from problems with the spine itself, but from strains to the band of muscles that surround the spine. These strains occur most often in the curve of our lower back or the base of our necks, and are usually caused by bad posture, sitting incorrectly for long periods, over-exertion or lifting something incorrectly.
Sometimes back pain occurs for no immediately obvious reason, but the result is the same – severe pain that can be agonising and immobilising.
The ancient Chinese medicine of acupuncture enjoys great success in treating short-term back pain and, although it’s not usually the first option offered to patients with back or neck pain, it’s becoming an increasingly popular alternative to more traditional therapies. In fact, acute back pain is now the main reason in the US for patients requesting acupuncture.
The American Pain Society also recommends that doctors should consider acupuncture as an alternative therapy for patients with chronic low-back pain that's not helped by conventional treatment.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture works on the theory that there are over 2 000 points on the human body that are connected to meridians, or pathways. These pathways conduct our qi (pronounced chee) through our bodies. Qi is the energy flow that, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, is vital to the maintenance of our overall health.
Acupuncture uses needles (most of which are only the thickness of a single hair) inserted in specific combinations of these 2 000 points to re-establish the normal flow of qi. The needles are usually left in the skin for up to half an hour, although some are removed after as little as 10 seconds, and then re-inserted into another point.
The benefits of acupuncture to treat back and neck pain are becoming more widely accepted, and studies have proven that the treatment stimulates our central nervous system (our spinal cord and brain).
This stimulation releases chemicals that can promote a sense of well-being, and can even alter the way in which our bodies experience pain.
Other schools of thought suggest that acupuncture may also work by:
- Changing brain chemistry by altering the release of neuro-hormones and neurotransmitters.
- Triggering the release of natural opioids, which are chemicals in the brain that promote sleep and lessen pain.
- Speeding up the relay of electromagnetic signals, which could in turn start the flow of endorphins (pain-killing chemicals) or release immune system cells into the body.
Dr Alain Sanua is a qualified medical doctor who practices integrated medicine combining Homeopathy, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, among others. He has vast experience in treating acute and chronic neck and back problems using acupuncture, supplemented with mesotherapy in more severe cases. Chat to him today about how he can help you manage and treat your pain.