Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

by Nancy Grossman, MS, L.Ac.

Acupuncture and Chronic Low Back Pain

Low back pain and acupuncture

      Whether due to an injury or just the passage of time, chronic low back pain typically responds very, very well to acupuncture treatment. The energy channels, or meridians, of the Bladder and, occasionally, the Gall Bladder, are involved in most back-pain conditions. Treatment consists of fine needles inserted either directly into the low back and legs along the involved meridian(s), or distally into points that correspond to the painful area. We are looking to see a reduction in pain and discomfort starting, preferably, with the first visit, though positive results can take up to five visits to show up.

    Recovery is rarely a straight line, but, in general, once treatment has started to be effective, expect to see a gradual improvement in symptoms over time. During the initial treatment phase, we typically expect the pain to return between visits, perhaps at the same level as before, possibly at a slightly lower level. Your job is to simply notice how long the pain-relief or pain-reduction lasts, whether several hours or several days, and tell your acupuncturist when you next see her. The aim of treatment is to gradually extend the pain-free or pain-reduced days until you get permanent relief.

    We are often asked how many visits are needed for complete pain relief. Predicting the future can always be a bit tricky, but here is a general guideline: think of receiving one month of treatment for every year that you have had a condition, although very severe illnesses or injuries may extend this time frame, and sometimes you will get permanent relief much more quickly. Thus, pain of relatively recent onset can usually be treated in a handful of visits, while that of many decades will probably need a longer course of treatment of at least several months. If your condition is severe or you have had multiple surgeries or injuries, you may be someone who should come in for semi-regular “tune-ups,” possibly once every month or two, once you have successfully concluded your initial course of treatment.

    Supportive therapies and habits are also very helpful to support long-term back health. In addition to acupuncture, yoga, abdominal exercises, circulating the energy in your back through exercise, taking care with posture, adequate rest, and other forms of self-help can help keep your low back strong and pain-free for many years to come.

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