Acupuncture and Back Pain: The Clinic’s Approach


Acupuncture is well known for treating painful conditions. Many people are still under the misunderstanding that acupuncture treats the symptom of pain only. This misunderstanding is linked to early research showing how acupuncture increased the body’s endorphins – natural pain killing chemicals.   While it’s great to treat the symptom of pain such an effect quickly wears off. Only 30% of what acupuncture does is concerned with pain. The main game is stimulating repair of damaged tissue and restoring normal function and this is where acupuncture excels with back pain. More recently confusion surrounds “dry needling” – this is where non-acupuncturists use acupuncture into trigger points believing that trigger points are the main basis of musculoskeletal pain.  Apart from often being a painful technique and frequently resulting in post-treatment pain as well – this simplistic “dry-needling” approach does not activate the powerful repair mechanisms built into the body in the way that regular acupuncture can.

In the clinic we first use a soft-tissue screening examination to identify if we are dealing with mostly muscle spasm, joint involvement or mainly a disc and nerve problem.  Depending on our assessment we may use some soft tissue massage techniques to free up tight muscle, a postural balancing approach to correct overcompensation which can maintain pain, and then acupuncture. Acupuncture can be used over the painful area, in the arms and legs or in the ears depending upon the particular case. Treatment is individualised rather than standardised because even in two people with the same type of pain the individual sensitivity and response to treatment can require two different approaches. Anti-inflammatory and pain killing medications can play a useful role in acute pain because in most cases good sleep and maintaining mobility leads to the best recovery. Natural anti-inflammatory herbs are available for those who find pharmacy medicine unsuitable.

Acupuncture has its full effect over 3 days so except in the most severe cases treatment is no closer than 3 days apart. Treating too often can aggravate rather than improve back pain. We cautiously use exercise therapy in acute pain for the same reason, reserving exercise for the rehabilitation phase with a view to preventing recurrence. For those with a chronic, degenerative or recurrent condition preventive maintenance with massage and or acupuncture every four to six weeks is often enough to prevent recurrence and maintain a strong back. The clinics holistic strategy is typically effective and getting people over their back pain. For stubborn cases Acupuncture Point Injection Therapy (APIT) can often make the difference. For more information on APIT see our website.