Acupuncture for Low Back Pain
By physiotherapist, Stephanie Harrap, B.HK (KIN), MPT, CAFCI
What is Acupuncture and how does it work?
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that can be traced back at least 2,500 years. The general premise behind acupuncture is that the body contains patterns of energy flow known as Qi (pronounced “chee”) and proper flow of Qi is considered necessary to maintain good health.
Acupuncture in physiotherapy works by stimulating the release of endorphins- the bodies natural pain-relieving neurohormones- through the insertion of needles into specific points to encourage natural healing. It affects functioning of the hormonal system, promoted a decrease in inflammation, increase in circulation and relief from pain.
Can Acupuncture help my low back pain?
First it’s important to understand that there are several different types of low back pain. The most common type is mechanical low back pain, also referred to as non-specific low back pain. In most cases it involves the muscles, ligaments and joints of the back. It can be the result of or contributed to by a number of different factors such as poor posture, repetitive tasks (i.e. lifting, bending, twisting etc.), incorrect ergonomics, or an acute injury (i.e motor vehicle accident). Regardless of the cause, they can all lead to significant amounts of pain. This pain can alter the bodies normal movement patterns resulting in muscle imbalances which can further contribute to the problem.
Proven pain relief
This is where acupuncture can play a role in the healing process. The main benefit of acupuncture is the effect it has on pain relief, both in the short and long term. In a study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain that compared 50 patients with chronic low back pain, the researchers found that after 1 week of treatment the use of analgesic medications decreased and reported pain had reduced significantly. After 6 months of treatment, both had further reduced; additionally, sleep was reported to be improved and activity levels had reportedly increased in 70% of the participants.
Another large trial, comparing 11 high quality studies comparing the affects of acupuncture against a sham treatment, found that “acupuncture is clearly effective in providing considerable pain relief”. The researchers evaluated the effects of acupuncture on low back pain both in the short and long term and found that it provided definitive relief that was sustained long term.
Take home message
It is important to first determine the cause of your low back pain with your physiotherapist through a detailed physical assessment. Once this is completed, you and your physiotherapist will establish a treatment plan and determine if acupuncture is right for you.
When to Book an Assessment for Lower Back Pain Treatment
If you wake up with lower back pain the morning, or suffer from a sore back during or after work, we ask that you see a doctor, chiropractor, physiotherapist or a massage therapist to have it resolved before it escalates into chronic pain or dysfunction.
For more information, please visit one of our practitioners at Absolute PhysioCare in Burnaby and we’ll be more than happy to help you get to the relief you have been searching for! Contact us at Burnaby Physio Care at 604-558-CARE (2273) or online to learn more and to make an appointment.
- Carlsson C, Sj lund B. Acupuncture for chronic low back pain: a randomized placebo-controlled study with long-term follow up. Clinical Journal of Pain 2001; 17(4):296-305.
- Moffett JK, Torgerson D, Bell-Seyer S, et al. Randomised controlled trial of exercise for low back pain: clinical outcomes, cost and preferences. British Medical Journal July 31, 1999; 319(7205):279-283.