How Does Acupuncture Help Back Pain?

 photo by Nichole Gawalis

photo by Nichole Gawalis

If you have yet to try acupuncture, it may seem a little odd that such tiny needles could help with problems like back pain. For over 3000 years, acupuncture has been used as the primary form of health care throughout East Asia, and continues to be used worldwide. When performed by a licensed practitioner, acupuncture is very safe, effective and relaxing. Most patients drift off to sleep during treatments, and report feelings of not only pain relief, but better energy, mood, digestion and improved sleep patterns overall. The basic concept of how acupuncture works is by improving circulation. The Chinese have an idiom: “where there is free flow there is no pain, where there is pain there is no free flow.” Chronic pain is not natural, and it depletes energy for daily activities and survival needs. When pain persists long- term, the body perceives this as a potentially infected area, and further inhibits circulation to that region – which leads to more pain, creating a vicious cycle that must be interrupted. Acupuncture helps the body to correct itself via the insertion of hair-thin needles. Anything that passes through the skin (even a paper cut) activates the immune system, and the body sends a cascade of red and white blood cells to clean and repair the tissue, as well as endorphins – which create a relaxing effect. Stagnant, painful muscles with previously-reduced circulation are cleansed and revitalized in the process, and change is rapid. Similar to a deep tissue massage, a sensation of muscular ache or a twitch is felt, and is quickly followed by a deep, lasting sense of relief and increased range of motion. Chinese medicine sees all aspects of health as interconnected. For example, one person’s shoulder pain may be caused by unaddressed anxiety, while for another, weak digestion may be the root cause. During treatments, acupuncture practitioners seek to uncover these hidden correlations, and provide a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation. This includes nutritional and physical modifications to help patients recover faster and stay out of pain. Acupuncture can bring relief to patients with muscle tension, whether from athletic training, old injuries that never fully healed, or mysterious pains with unknown causes.