Finding Relief: Acupuncture For Low Back Pain

The elusive low back pain monster – it creeps up on us when we least expect it, making daily activities feel like a never-ending obstacle course. Improper lifting moves, overdoing it at the gym, or doing a dramatic “ouch-I-pulled-a-muscle” dance – are all prime suspects for a lower back pain bash. Most people go for the usual treatment, massage therapy or physical therapy, but acupuncture is a promising option for addressing low back pain for good. In this blog, we’ll explore how tiny needles can provide relief from low back pain and the reasons behind its growing popularity.

Acupuncture for low back pain

Causes of Low Back Pain

Understanding the common causes of low back pain can help you identify potential triggers and seek appropriate treatment. Here are some popular causes of low back pain:

Muscle Strain:

A muscle strain is when you stretch or tear the fibers of a muscle. It’s like when you pull or overstretch a rubber band, and it becomes damaged. This usually happens when you put too much force on the muscle, such as lifting something heavy or making sudden movements. A muscle strain can cause pain, swelling, and sometimes limited movement in the affected area. This is one of the most common causes of acute low back pain.

Herniated Disc:

When a herniated disc occurs, it involves the damage of the cushion-like discs between the bones of your spine (vertebrae), and the soft inner part of the disc pushes out through the tough outer layer. It’s a bit like jelly squeezing out of a donut when you press on it. This can put pressure on nearby nerves, causing pain, tingling, or weakness in the back or even in other parts of the body, like the legs or arms. It’s like having a little disc “bulge” that can cause discomfort and affect how you move.

Degenerative Disc Disease:

Degenerative disc disease is a condition where the soft, cushion-like discs between the bones of your spine (vertebrae) start to wear down and lose their thickness and flexibility. It’s a natural aging process of discs over time, and it’s not really a “disease” in the traditional sense. As the discs degenerate, they may not provide as much support or shock absorption for the spine, leading to pain and discomfort in the affected area.

Spinal Stenosis:

Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spaces within your spine narrow, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. It’s like a hallway becoming narrower and squeezing the people passing through it. This compression can lead to pain, tingling, and weakness in the back and legs. Spinal stenosis is caused by age-related changes in the spine, injuries, or arthritis.

Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis of the low back is a condition where the joints in the lower part of your spine (the lumbar region) experience wear and tear over time. It’s like the creaks and groans you might hear from an old chair that’s been used a lot. In this case, the cartilage that cushions the joints in your lower back starts to break down, leading to friction and inflammation. This can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced flexibility in your lower back, making it challenging to move comfortably.

Muscle Imbalances:

We have different muscles that support our back and keep it stable. Sometimes, certain muscles can become weaker, while others become stronger. When this happens, it creates an imbalance, like having one side of a bridge stronger than the other. The imbalanced muscles put extra strain on the lower back, like how a crooked bridge can’t hold weight properly. This strain on the lower back can lead to pain and discomfort.

Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

Acupuncture low back pain

Acupuncture stands out as a unique form of therapy because of how needles directly interact with muscles. For instance, massage therapy focuses on surface-level relaxation and muscle stretching. While physical therapy emphasizes strengthening and enhancing range of motion. Acupuncture’s magic lies in its direct connection with muscle fibers. A needle can directly stimulate skin, fat tissue, fascia, and muscle tissue without causing harm.

How Acupuncture Works for Low Back Pain

Acupuncture treatment can elicit various physiological responses, such as the release of endorphins, modulation of pain perception, inflammation reduction, muscle relaxation, and regulation of the nervous system. The following happens when acupuncture needles are inserted:

  • Endorphin release: Acupuncture triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body. These endorphins can reduce pain sensations and promote a sense of well-being.
  • Modulate pain perception: Acupuncture will affect the way the brain perceives and processes pain signals. By stimulating specific points, acupuncture can influence pain pathways, reducing the intensity of pain messages sent to the brain.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Acupuncture can reduce inflammation in the body, which is beneficial for individuals with low back pain caused by inflammatory conditions.
  • Muscle relaxation: The insertion of acupuncture needles into specific points will lead to muscle relaxation. Relieving muscle tension and spasms can help reduce pain and improve mobility in the lower back.
  • Improving circulation: Acupuncture enhances blood flow to the affected area, promoting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients and aiding in the removal of waste products, which can support the healing process.
  • Central nervous system regulation: Acupuncture affects the autonomic nervous system, which plays a role in pain perception and the body’s response to stress. By influencing this system, acupuncture can help regulate pain responses.

Example Treatment Plan for Low Back Pain

Acupuncture for low back pain

Duration of the treatment can be anywhere from 1-3 for acute pain. However, chronic pain will take longer and will require maintenance treatments a few times per year after the low back is free of pain.

Main Acupuncture Points:

  • BL23 (Shenshu) – Strengthens the lower back and kidneys, tonifies qi and blood.
  • BL25 (Dachangshu) – Alleviates pain and spasms in the lumbar region.
  • BL40 (Weizhong) – Important for low back pain and sciatica.
  • GB30 (Huantiao) – Benefits the lumbar spine, legs and hips. Helps relax muscles.
  • KI3 (Taixi) – Nourishes the kidneys, strengthens the low back.
  • BL60 (Kunlun) – Alleviates lumbar and gluteal pain.

Acupuncture Treatment Plan:

  • Week 1-2: 3 sessions per week to reduce acute pain.
  • Week 3-4: 2 sessions per week as condition improves.
  • Week 5-6: 1 session per week to consolidate treatment.
  • Assess improvement weekly and adjust points accordingly.

Lifestyle Recommendations for Low back Pain:

  • Apply heat/ice, rest and modify activities to avoid aggravation.
  • Stretching, yoga and proper lifting techniques for long-term management.
  • Low-impact exercise like walking or swimming when pain subsides.
  • Stress reduction and anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Herbs, vitamins, minerals as needed.

How Does Acupuncture Feel?

Here’s a quick overview of what the sensation of acupuncture treatment is typically like:

  • Insertion of the needles usually causes little to no pain. The needles used are very thin, about the width of a human hair. Sometimes a mild aching, pressure, or dull sensation may be felt as the needle goes in.
  • When the acupuncture needle reaches the proper depth, I may manipulate or twist the needle to stimulate the point. This can produce a sensation called “de qi” – a dull ache, tingling, warmth, heaviness or numbness around the needle. It is considered an indication that the acupuncture point is being effectively stimulated.
  • As the needles are retained for the length of the treatment (usually 25-30 mins), you’ll mainly just feel them in place – though some points may produce lingering sensations of soreness and warmth around the area.
  • You will feel very relaxed, refreshed or even a little drowsy during or after treatment due to the effects of acupuncture.
  • After the needles are removed, there may be temporary mild soreness, redness or a small bruise at the needle site. This resolves quickly.
  • Everyone has a different sensory experience with acupuncture. The most important thing is to communicate with me about the sensations you are feeling so I can make any necessary adjustments.

Acupuncture Appointment for Low Back Pain

Acupuncture for low back pain

Scheduling an appointment for acupuncture is simple. No referrals are needed from your medical doctor and treatment can be combined with others, such as physical therapy.

The first appointment for low back pain will include an intake to learn more about your medical history and overall lifestyle. Acupuncture treatment, including a treatment plan will be discussed. We will also have time to answer any questions you may have about acupuncture in general.

After your intake, acupuncture treatment for low back pain will begin. You will lie face down on a comfortable massage table while listening to soft and relaxing music to help ease any fears. I’ll gently insert acupuncture into the most effective location to help reduce your pain. The acupuncture usually lasts 25 minutes. After needles are removed, a light massage or cupping is added to help reduce muscle tension.

This is a description of a standard session for acupuncture treatment. If you are ready to get rid of your pain naturally, book your appointment today.

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