Acupuncture As a Remedy for Back Pain

by David A. Griffiths

If you suffer from back pain, you probably would not consider acupuncture as a treatment until you have exhausted many other alternatives. However, acupuncture is a type of ancient Chinese medicine that’s been around for over 2,500 years, and throughout this time, it has been used for back pain relief, increasingly so in these modern times.

While it is not traditionally a part of Western medicine, nowadays your doctor is quite likely to send you for
this treatment if you are suffering from back or neck pain either persistently or due to accident or injury.
If you are going to have this therapy, you may want to know a little about how it works. The general belief is
that the body has 20 energy flow patterns called meridians or pathways. It is thought that the life force or vital energy, known as the qi (it is pronounced chee), flows through these pathways and is considered
to be essential to maintaining good health. There are over 2,000 points on our bodies that connect with these pathways and it is at these points that the hair-thin needles are inserted. This is done in varying, specific combinations depending on the treatment required. These actions are believed to either correct the flow of qi or to reinforce it.

Even though it cannot be proven that this works as a type of pain relief, it is thought that the central nervous
system is stimulated. Most patients say that they get a pins-and-needles sensation upon the insertion of the
needles and indeed into the duration of the treatment, which usually lasts about 15 to 30 minutes. Some people report that they feel energized or even very relaxed, so it appears as if the effect can be somewhat different depending on the individual.

The acupuncturist will use up to 20 metallic needles during a treatment session and the depth they are inserted is dependent upon the area—deeper muscular or fatty areas need more penetration and the scalp, for example, would be just below the surface. The practitioner may turn the needles one way or another depending on what they are trying to achieve; in my personal experience, they were turned on insertion, then again about half way through the treatment. At no point is the treatment painful. There is a mere sensation of the needles going in, but they do not feel sharp at all because, unlike needles used for injections, an acupuncture needle’s tip comes to a smooth point without sharp edges. They are also about 20 times thinner than a hypodermic needle. In my experience, the most troublesome part of the treatment is lying in the same position without moving for up to 30 minutes, especially if you suffer from back pain.

Although there are many medical experts who believe acupuncture is an effective way to treat certain conditions such as back pain, there is no true consensus. Some adhere to the theories of qi and meridians, while others attribute acupuncture’s benefits to the biological changes that are brought about in the body as a result of treatment. Needless to say, there will always be the skeptics who deny that acupuncture has any effect at all, but in my opinion, if you are suffering from ongoing back pain, it is certainly worth trying.

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