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LOW BACK PAIN - How Acupuncture Provides Pain Relief

Back pain (especially lower back pain) is a common chronic pain issue. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine approach that has become a popular and well-researched method for managing this pain.

More than 70% of low back pain sufferers are adults between the ages of 18 and 64. Back pain may be chronic, acute or sub-acute. There is a higher rate among women, and people who are between the ages of 35 and 55 are most likely to experience it. These are some common risk factors: poor posture, obesity, depression, age, gender, surgery, and/or repetitive strenuous motions.

One common way people seek relief is by reaching for drugs and other

medications. This may work temporarily and may or may not help you get

out of pain. Unfortunately, common low back pain medications do not

address the root cause(s), and when used over long periods of time can

cause unwanted side effects. 

Black and white image of a male body, showing his back only, arms are folded in holding his lower back. Red color is splashed over the lower back indicating pain.

The Yu Dayi Family Method for treating pain with acupuncture, never placing a needle at the sight of injury or pathology. Relief is not as simple as putting needles where it hurts, as this may only provides minor or temporary effects.  Correlating acupuncture points, relating to the area of pain, are selected from either the scalp, hands, feet or limbs. Most of the time, pain relief is felt instantly after inserting 1-2 needles.


The first few needles treat the "branch" of the problem. Further acupuncture points are utilized to help address the "root" cause of the pain. Chinese herbs may be prescribed to address the "root" of the issue as well. All pain is due to a blockage of Qi, or energy, flow - which means that things like oxygen exchange and blood flow may not be adequate.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offer a safe and effective approach to relieving back pain, without causing harmful side effects. These healing methods provide a comprehensive diagnostic protocol that can help your acupuncturist understand and address the root cause(s) of your back pain. 

Some 2012 research involved reviewing almost 20,000 people with chronic pain. They were given authentic acupuncture treatments, fake treatments, or no acupuncture at all. Those who received real acupuncture experienced 50 percent improvement in their chronic pain issues.


A few ways acupuncture works on the body:

  • Stimulates nervous system. Trigger points stimulated by acupuncture could release chemicals from the spinal cord, muscles, and brain. Some of these could be naturally pain-relieving.

  • Releases opioid-like chemicals produced in the body. Along the same lines as the theory above, acupuncture may release pain-relieving chemicals. These naturally occur in the body and have similar properties to opioid pain relievers. (Hydrocodone or morphine are examples.)

  • Releases neurotransmitters. These are hormones that send messages regulating the on/off mechanisms of various nerve endings. Acupuncture may stimulate some that shut off pain.

  • Triggers electromagnetic impulses in the body. These impulses can help speed the body’s way of handling pain, including the release of endorphins

Acute low back pain symptoms are simpler to treat than chronic issues. Chronic low back pain takes a bit more time to help undue the damage already done. Many patients come to the clinic to prevent surgical interventions or current pain management therapies are providing no relief. 

A 2012 study done by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics aimed to determine the effect of acupuncture for four chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, arthritis, chronic headache and shoulder pain.

The researchers reviewed clinical trials involving over 17,000 patients, and the results showed that patients receiving acupuncture had less pain than patients in the placebo control group for back and neck muscle aches and pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headaches. (1) The conclusion was that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is “more than just a placebo effect, therefore it’s a reasonable referral option for doctors.”

Quick facts:

There are various causes of low back pain:

Disc herniation, trauma, bulging disc, stenosis, muscle strain, compression, nerve impingement.

Back pain can be due to an "external" problem or "internal" problem.


"Internal" back pain problems do not respond well to prescription medications.

A Natural Path to Relief: Acupuncture and TCM take a holistic, or whole-body approach to health. Your practitioner will take a detailed health history, and perform a physical exam to determine how and why your body's vital energy, or Qi (pronounced chee), is out of balance and identify what type of headache you are experiencing. To determine the most effective care, he/she will focus on the root cause(s) of the problem, while simultaneously treating your current symptoms.

During treatment, in order to restore the body's balance and energy flow, fine sterile needles will be inserted at specific points of the body. Based on your unique symptoms, your acupuncturist will choose to concentrate on acupuncture points related to specific organs. Afterward, a variety of self-care techniques may be prescribed to further expedite your healing process.


It is important to remember that acupuncture is not a quick fix. Changes may occur quickly or over a longer period of time, depending upon your overall constitution and health. Whether it is one visit to address an acute problem, or several visits to address a chronic problem, it is suggested to closely follow care recommendations of your acupuncturist to maximize your healing potential.

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