How Acupuncture Appears To Help Back Pain
We have two accredited Southampton Acupuncturists, Sharon and Martin, who work from the YOU Massage & Therapy Centre
Chronic back pain is an extremely common ailment across the global population, and if it’s something you struggle with, it can be difficult to find treatments that consistently improve your symptoms. Many people swear by acupuncture sessions to relieve tension, particularly as an alternative to more invasive treatments or to drugs that could have problematic side effects. The reason acupuncture works well as an alternative to more invasive treatments is because it takes a holistic approach. Although there’s still more research to be done, this treatment is extremely promising as a long term strategy for managing back pain.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture derives from ancient Chinese medicine and has been practiced for thousands of years. It is widely practiced throughout the west, and although it doesn’t have its roots in traditional science, it is often used in conjunction with or as an alternative to modern medical practices. During an acupuncture session, the practitioner inserts very small needles into the skin, usually just a few centimeters long. The needles are placed based on strategic pressure points determined by your practitioner and left in for a short period of time, typically less than 20 minutes.
Practitioners believe that acupuncture relieves tension and stress in the body by opening up the flow of energy along your body’s meridians. These needles can also be used to stimulate certain nerves and tissues, triggering your body’s natural pain relieving methods. There are many different approaches to acupuncture, and Western practitioners tend to focus more on physical stimulation than the metaphysical energy release that’s more prevalent in Asian cultures. When choosing an acupuncturist, it’s important to talk to them about the specific techniques and beliefs that guide their practice. Clean, single use needle techniques are generally the safest and are a good guideline when searching for a practitioner.
Acupuncture For Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek acupuncture treatment. Since acupuncture practice isn’t based in science, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how well it works for this purpose. However, studies have shown that acupuncture treatment can be very helpful for people who are struggling with back pain. In a Swedish study, 16 out of 34 patients saw improvements from receiving acupuncture treatment, while only 2 of 34 saw improvement with a placebo. This indicates that while acupuncture may not work for everyone, it is definitely worth trying if you struggle with chronic lower back pain on a regular basis.
Practitioners have many theories about why acupuncture works so well for back pain. One of the most common theories is that it stimulates the nervous system, which is a common cause of back pain. The body has a variety of natural pain relieving methods, which could be activated through acupuncture. These include natural opioids and endorphins, which are pain-killing chemicals released in the brain. It could also trigger a positive immune system response, which kills the pain. Either way, this release of energy and tension can drastically reduce your chronic back pain, particularly when done on a regular basis.
What to Expect From Your First Acupuncture Session
Before you start acupuncture, make sure that you find a licensed and respected practitioner. Your doctor may actually be able to refer you to someone they trust. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture is also a great resource for finding a reliable acupuncturist. You should also contact your health insurance company to see if acupuncture is covered. Some companies will pay for a certain number of acupuncture sessions, particularly if traditional treatment for back pain doesn’t work.
At your first session, you will need to fill out some forms about yourself and your medical history, just like you would at a traditional doctor’s office. After you’ve filled out the forms, your acupuncturist will have a short consultation with you so they can determine the best course of action. They’ll ask about the medical problems you’ve been experiencing and go into detail about your symptoms. They will also need to know about any medications that you take, and they’ll do a quick check of your pulse.
For the acupuncture treatment, you will need to lie down on a padded table. Your acupuncturist will position you properly, and they may ask you to remove certain items of clothing, depending on where you will be receiving the treatment. They will typically be able to provide a gown for privacy if desired. They will determine which sites will be most effective for the treatment and swab them down with alcohol for cleanliness. They will then insert small, clean needles into each of the pressure sites, and let them sit for a short period of time, often around 20 minutes.
Many people worry about pain prior to having an acupuncture treatment. Since the needles are so small and they are applied at strategic points throughout the body, you typically won’t feel any pain or discomfort at all. In fact, many people don’t feel any sensation at all during an acupuncture treatment. If you do feel pain, it’s important to let your acupuncturist know so that they can adjust your needles.
After your treatment, it’s normal to feel a little lightheaded. This will typically pass after a short period of time, but be sure to sit down and wait for the feeling to pass before driving or walking. Your acupuncturist may also recommend specific diet or exercise changes if they feel it is necessary. Ideally, your primary care doctor and your acupuncturist can work together to put together a treatment plan that is effective for your chronic back pain. After you see how your body reacts to the acupuncture, you can set up regular sessions so that you can continually manage your back pain.
Since tension is such a common cause of back pain, it’s unsurprising that acupuncture is very helpful for those who suffer with it. If traditional Western medicine hasn’t be effective for your chronic back pain, don’t give up. You may need a more holistic approach, which acupuncture and other forms of Eastern medicine can provide.
About the Guest Blog Author: Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C., is a lead chiropractor and founder of Better Health Chiropractor Anchorage, which provides chiropractic care for Alaskans at four different locations. He has been working as a chiropractor for over 20 years and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association.
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