Why Acupuncture May be The Best Treatment for Back Pain
Nearly 8 out of every 10 Americans will suffer from some form of Back Pain in their lifetime. For many that pain will take a toll on their income and quality of life. The Mayo Clinic identifies Back Pain as the 3rd leading reason that people seek medical attention. According to the most recent data, Back Pain costs have exceeded 90 Billion annually in the United States.
Back Pain has wider implications to both patients and society. These costs include not only out of pocket medical expenses, lost wages and productivity, but also legal and insurance overheads and the impact on families.
According to the ACA , 31 million Americans have back pain at any given time. Half of all working Americans have back pain at least once a year, and it is estimated that 80 percent of us will have at least one episode of back pain during our lifetime. A worldwide study called the Global Burden of Disease concluded that low back pain causes more disability than any other condition.
Millions of back patients are floundering in a medical system that isn’t equipped to help them. They’re pushed toward intrusive, addictive, expensive interventions that often fail or can even harm them, and away from things like acupuncture, yoga, tai chi or strength training which actually seem to help. Meanwhile, Americans and their doctors have come to expect cures for everything — and back pain is one of those nearly universal ailments with no cure. Patients and taxpayers wind up paying the price for this failure, both in dollars and in health.Chronic nonspecific back pain is the kind the medical community is often terrible at treating. Many of the most popular treatments on offer from doctors for chronic nonspecific low back pain — bed rest, spinal surgery, opioid painkillers, steroid injections — have been proven ineffective in the majority of cases, and sometimes downright harmful.
Why is Back Pain such a common and complicated health problem in today’s world?
The reason back pain is so common and so difficult to treat is primarily twofold. First, low back pain typically is the result of a combination of problems. For most patients, it is not just a tight muscle or a disc out of place. It often starts as a combination of muscle and joint problems, which progresses to arthritis as the person ages, especially if the problem goes untreated.
The problem is complicated by a diet that tends to promote inflammation and interfere with the natural healing process — the standard American diet high in processed foods, sugars, industrial chemicals and white flour. Another major reason is Stress, and the effect that this has on the body. Add to that all the sitting we do — seated at a desk for much of the year from ages 6 to 18 and many of us well into the adult years — and it really isn’t a surprise back pain is so common.
The second reason back pain is such a problem is much simpler. The average patient I see with chronic low back pain has been “treating” it with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, often for years. But these drugs do nothing for the underlying causes of back pain. Easing the pain with drugs may allow the person to be more active because the joint and muscle problems are not being addressed, but they tend to worsen with time. Also, there is evidence these drugs actually damage the joints with long-term use, making the problem worse.
Acupuncture has been an integral part of Chinese Medicine for over 4,000 years, although the benefits were slowly discovered in the Western world. Today, as people are becoming more aware of alternative treatments—and seeking pain relief options that do not include medication—acupuncture seems to have jumped to the top of many people’s radar.
Pain is also the No. 1 reported reason for seeking acupuncture. The good news is chronic low back pain is one of the conditions that research suggests acupuncture may be an effective tool for treating. One recent review of 22 acupuncture studies showed that it provided relief from chronic back pain. Of course, from a Chinese medicine perspective treating back pain per se is not really how we work. It isn’t just empty rhetoric that we treat the person, not the symptom, and although the symptom might be identical in twenty people they may well be treated in twenty different ways. Each symptom arises against a backdrop of imbalance, and it is by treating the imbalance as well as, and sometimes instead of, the symptoms real change can both be made and sustained. There are obviously specific points which can affect the Back Pain but if these are treated alone and a deeper underlying problem is not addressed the pain will return.
The fact that pain can arise in many different ways means that sometimes the obvious diagnosis doesn’t really work either. Most people over the age of 50 have some deterioration of the lower spine, but although it is often declared the cause, it may not be. We have certainly treated many people with serious deterioration of the lower spine whose pains have gone.
Acupuncture can also be used for straightforward pain relief, and here the main questions which we have are not whether it works, but how much and how sustainable the results may be. There has been a great deal of high quality research into the use of acupuncture and how it works to address Back Pain. <br> Acupuncture can help back pain by:
• providing pain relief — by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987; Zhao 2008).
• reducing inflammation — by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007;Zijlstra 2003).
• improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility — by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling and bruising.
• reducing the use of medication for back complaints (Thomas 2006).
• providing a more cost-effective treatment over a longer period of time (Radcliffe 2006;Witt 2006).
• improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises (Ammendolia 2008; Yuan 2008).
Because Acupuncture Physicians are trained to treat not only the pain that patients are experiencing, but also all of the underlying factors that have interfered with the bodies own ability to heal, the ability to give patients relief and healing is powerful. We look to correct these contributing factors promoting a total body approach to healing.
Call or email us today to set up a consultation to see if Acupuncture can help with your Back Pain.