For a great many people, back pain is a very serious problem.
We aren’t talking about a back that’s sore for a day or two after a rougher-than-expected game of touch football. We’re talking about persistent, chronic back pain – the kind that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says is one of the worst afflictions facing modern workers.
Lots of people who have back pain say they’ve tried everything — heating pads, medication, stretches — and that nothing has helped.
One thing they have not have considered: Acupuncture for back pain.
Acupuncture, at its most elemental, entails using thin, sterile, single-use needles to increase blood flow. It developed in ancient China as a way to manage one’s qi, or life force (also sometimes spelled “chi.”) Today it’s being praised as a natural noninvasive way to relieve pain, anxiety, insomnia, manage weight, and relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. It can also alleviate physical discomforts and mood and balances associated with quitting smoking.
As for back pain, many people have turned to acupuncture as a means of addressing their chronic and persistent aches and pains. By increasing circulation and blood flow, Acupuncture can move the stagnant flow of energy and reset the energetic pathways to reduce the pain in your muscles. This will reduce strain, pressure and discomfort.
Acupuncture for Back Pain Facts
The American Chiropractic Association estimates at any given time 31 million Americans suffer from back pain. There are numerous therapies available for relief, including physical therapy, chiropractic care, pharmaceutical treatments and invasive surgeries. However, studies have shown acupressure to be an effective alternative, often delivering better results than any of the above mentioned therapies. In fact, one study directly compared the effects of acupressure verses physical therapy.
Taiwanese researchers conducted a study of 129 patients at an orthopedic clinic suffering from lower back pain for a minimum of one month. To assess their level of disability, the patients answered the Roland and Morris Disability Questionnaire, which assigns a score between 0 and 24. The subjects of the study all scored less than 12, with 63 percent showing minimal disability.
The patients were divided into two groups. One group received routine physical therapy, while the other group had acupressure treatments, both over a one-month period. Physical therapists used a number of available treatments, including spinal manipulation, pelvic manual traction, infrared light therapy, thermotherapy, electrical stimulation and exercise therapy. The acupressure group was treated by a single acupressure therapist.
Acupressure proved to produce significantly better results than the standard physical therapy treatments. Acupressure was more effective at decreasing the patients’ disability scores and overall pain. In fact, six months after the treatment ended the acupressure group still had less pain and reported fewer days off from work or school. The Roland and Morris disability scores were significantly better, with acupressure patients scoring an average of 2.2 compared with 6.7 from the physical therapy group. Similarly, the acupressure participants scored an average of six points higher (out of a possible 54) on the Oswestry Disability Questionnaire.
It’s important to note that this was a blind study. The patients’ responses to the therapies could have been affected if they were previously exposed to acupressure treatment, causing them to respond more favorably. The therapists were not given any information about the patients’ previous treatments. Either way, however, it’s a huge credit to the benefits of acupressure as a treatment for lower back pain.
Now, finding the right acupuncture practitioner isn’t something that can be done in a matter of minutes. Naturally, you want to find someone who makes you feel comfortable and at ease.
Acupuncture for Migraine Relief
For many people, migraines are more than just headaches, they are debilitating.
Migraine sufferers don’t experience just headaches. They experience a blinding, crippling pain that makes it difficult to perform everyday tasks. In many cases, the intensity of a migraine is difficult for people to describe.
Although medication is available that may help some migraine sufferers, it does not work for everyone.
One remedy that migraine sufferers should consider is acupuncture.
Acupuncture is the art of using sterile single-use needles to stimulate various acu-points (acupuncture points) in the body. Stimulating these acu-points will balance one’s vital energy, known as Qi.
Migraines, as well as any other disease or condition, is caused by a disturbance in our Qi. Acupuncture is best used as a preventative treatment, though it can also help relieve the pain of an active migraine as well.
Many people who suffer from migraines have found that acupuncture helped when nothing else has. The advantage to using acupuncture over medication is that there are no side effects.
It is important for the acupuncturist to know exactly which part of your head the pain is coming from, since a migraine is typically a focused pain rather than spread throughout the head. Meridians are the pathways along which Qi travels. If an acupuncturist knows where the pain is coming from then they’ll know which pathway they need to target.
Below are four different locations of migraines and their corresponding pathways.
Pain Location: Forehead
Energy Blockage in: Stomach Pathway
Pain Location: Side of Head by Temples
Energy Blockage in: Gallbladder Pathway
Pain Location: Back of the Neck
Energy Blockage in: Bladder Pathway
Pain Location: Top of the Head
Energy Blockage in: Liver Pathway
Acupuncture will be applied to specific points to restore balance in the body and prevent migraines from reoccurring. It’s true that one could take painkillers to reduce the effects of a migraine, but this relief is only temporary and can come with side effects. Fortunately, acupuncture is very powerful and will never lose its effectiveness like pain killers do.
When the correct acupuncture points are stimulated, the body releases chemicals known as endorphins. These chemicals are often associated with their ability to relieve pain naturally. Acupuncture will not only relieve pain, but will also optimize blood flow and strengthens the body’s health in general. If you are affected by any illness or disease, it is best to consult with an acupuncturist to learn if and how effective acupuncture will be for you.
Most people tend to use acupuncture as a last resort after trying standard treatments, though it is best that they are combined at first because acupuncture may take up to five sessions before the results start to show. At first you’ll receive acupuncture a few times per week. As the pain and symptoms are reduced, so will the number of sessions you will need.
Studies have reported that acupuncture has quite a profound effect on negating a migraine. One report has said that the reason acupuncture works is due to the fact it releases endorphins, though another report has suggested that this treatment stabilizes serotonin which reduces the pain caused by migraines. Combined reports show that migraines are best managed with a good mix of acupuncture, diet changes, lifestyle adjustments, herbal therapy, and various other oriental medicine techniques.
Laurie has successfully treated many patients with migraine headaches in her Los Angeles Acupuncture practice.
Similar to treatments for stress, anxiety and insomnia. When the body is out of balance this can also affect the mind. In Chinese medicine, there is no distinction between the source of physical and mental disorders. The mind, referred to as the Shen in TCM, is governed by the same meridian system that rules the physical body. Both mental and physical disorders are a result of the body’s energy being unbalanced. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine can restore balance to the patients body and bring clarity and tranquility to the mind.
Acupuncture for Sciatica
How can acupuncture be applied to help relieve sciatica? Here at Los Angeles Acupuncture and Wellness, we use traditional Chinese medicine in addition to acupuncture to give you a comprehensive treatment approach.
One factor causing sciatica pain may be your body’s Qi is stagnated and needs to be put back into balance. If you don’t know what Qi is, it’s from Chinese philosophy and considered to be the vital force in the body that maintains optimum health for a long life. When the energy flow of Qi in the area gets cut off you can develop problems like sciatica. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine become effective choices as an alternative form of treatment
Using Pressure Points with Acupuncture
Because sciatica is usually caused by spinal issues such as a pinched nerve or a degenerated disc, acupuncture targets those areas to help relieve pain. This is done using pressure points that aren’t necessarily in the location where the pain occurs. We locate other areas of the body that could be causing the issue and stifling your flow of QI.
By using sterilized acupuncture needles, certain paths are found on the body where pressure points help bring back proper blood flow. Keep in mind, that this treatment may have to be ongoing if you’ve been dealing with sciatica for many years. However, some have found relief in just a few treatments. Most patients experience an immediate decrease in pain after the first treatment.
Various Chinese herbs exist that help give many people relief from pain. Some of them are in tablet form and can be taken up to several times a day. There are some effective western dietary supplements that may help you as well.
Stretching is going to be a major part in how your sciatica pain gets treated after doing acupuncture and herbal treatments. These stretches and exercises can be tailored toward stretching the abdominal and back regions to keep your back muscles limber.
Should Athletes and Exercise Fanatics Use Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine To Overcome and Prevent Injuries
Athletes and coaches, regardless of what sport they play or manage, are taking time out to heal their bodies. As they often look for ways to better their performance in order to outperform their competitors, many are discovering the benefits Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture.
Recuperate Faster with Acupuncture and TCM
TCM and acupuncture help athletes to recover more quickly from injuries and allows them to move more gracefully, ensuring they stay fit and active. Acupuncture can improve the function of the body and bring back its stability and coordination. In fact, the technique works so well that many professional sports teams have an acupuncturist on staff to treat injuries and ensure maximum performance.
A Review of Studies on How The Body Responds To Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Oriental medicine practitioners help novice and professional athletes in a number of ways. The manual techniques – Gua Sha, suction-based massage and cupping – can increase bloodflow to the muscles. Note the following studies:
1 – University of Duisburg-Essen researchers, in 2011, proved Gua Sha was beneficial in the treatment of lower back muscle stiffness and lingering pain.
2 – Majeedia Hospital researchers, in India, demonstrated how beneficial cupping was in decreasing the muscle stiffness, inflammation and pain for people suffering with knee osteoarthritis. They also learned it increased the blood supply and replicated light exercise. And, according to researchers, it caused an increase in muscle flexibility.
There are many Olympic athletes that include acupuncture in their wellness program. For example: Yao Ming, a basketball center for China, utilized acupuncture to assist him in the recovery process for ankle surgery. Wang Qun, a Chinese swimmer, used cupping – as noted by the marks on the back – to improve her training.
3 – There have been numerous studies regarding acupuncture’s effect on blood flow to certain parts of the body, which may lead to an increase in an athlete’s performance. One study, carried out at Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, involved sport players running for 5,000 meters and sitting down immediately for an acupuncture treatment. What the study found was this: athletes that underwent the acupuncture treatment saw a quicker heart rate recovery than those athletes that did not have the acupuncture treatment.
4 – The American Journal of Acupuncture published another study that analyzed the treatment’s effects for young healthy males on anaerobic threshold and work ability during exercise. Men in the acupuncture treatment group, compared to the placebo group, were found to have a higher maximal exercise ability and could carry out higher workloads at the start of blood lactate accumulation. They also had a lower heart rate.
5 – Researchers at the University of California studied persons biking after an acupuncture treatment. They learned that the method could boost exercise capacity. They also saw a drop in the participants’ systolic blood pressure, meaning better blood circulation in the body.
6 – If you’re a runner, the Neuroscience Research Institute researchers In China recently found acupuncture encourages the body to release endorphins that will reduce pain sensation while you meet your health goals.
Many sports ailments can be treated with Oriental medicine and acupuncture including but not limited to:
- Pulled muscles
- Pulled groin
- Shin splints
- Ankle sprain
- Foot pain
- Neck pain
There are two primary reasons for using acupuncture and Oriental medicine for sports injuries:
Decrease the injured area’s inflammation and pain. According to evidence, the treatment can help promote healing by boost blood circulation to the area (including bringing in white blood cells) and reduce the amount of bruising, swelling and pain.
Better performance and injury prevention. Move slowly into a fitness program. This will help your muscles and joints become accustomed to the rigors you will put it through.
If you should injure yourself due to your exercise regime, you should consider acupuncture as viable option to help you overcome it and prevent it from happening again.
Acupuncture for Musculoskeletal Pain
Acupuncture provides effective pain relief in both the short and long term for most types of pain and inflammation based disorders. The list includes but is not limited to:
- Back Pain
- Chronic Pain
- Headaches and Migraines
- Inflammation and Swelling
- Muscle Tension / Spasms
- Sports Injuries
Simply– Acupuncture is very effective at relieving pain. Read some of our patient testimonials and notice the reports of the feeling of well-being after the treatments.