Every year, 2.4 million Americans become chronically disabled due to lower back pain. If you're having trouble managing your chronic pain with painkillers, or if you don't want to take opiates, your doctor may recommend seeing an acupuncturist. Here are three things you need to know about acupuncture for lower back pain.
How is the treatment performed?
During acupuncture, very thin needles will be inserted into your skin. The needles are usually inserted 0.25 to one inch into your skin, though in some cases, they may need to be inserted deeper. These needles are typically inserted into points on your back or on the backs of your legs, though the points your acupuncturist uses may vary. The needles will be left in place for up to 10 minutes.
Your acupuncturist will tell you when you should come back for your next session. In the early stages, treatments may need to occur multiple times per week, but later, treatments may occur as infrequently as four times a year as a maintenance therapy.
How does acupuncture treat pain?
Researchers have multiple theories as to how acupuncture works to treat pain. Acupuncture may make your body produce endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that act as your body's own natural painkillers. These chemicals interact with the parts of your brain that block pain.
The other theory is that acupuncture affects the serotonin-producing part of your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that's believed to contribute to feelings of happiness.
Another theory is that the insertion of the needles distracts you from your back pain. Studies have shown that people report significantly lower pain levels when they're distracted by another task, and the counter-irritation associated with needle insertion serves as a distraction.
How effective is acupuncture?
A meta-analysis of 29 studies—which involved 17,922 patients—was performed to examine the effect of acupuncture on chronic pain. The meta-analysis only looked at rigorous studies that compared acupuncture to a sham needle therapy, so poorly-designed studies or studies that didn't account for the placebo effect were not considered.
This meta-analysis found that people who received acupuncture reported much higher decreases in pain than people who received the sham needle treatment or no treatment at all. Acupuncture was also shown to work better than standard pain treatment.
If you're suffering from chronic lower back pain and aren't getting the relief you need from other pain treatments, consider alternative forms of pain therapy, like acupuncture. Continue reading more about acupuncture and other spa pain relief methods by checking out more sites.