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Acupuncture for Relief of Back Pain and Neck Pain
Back pain and neck pain are two of the most common reasons for people to visit an acupuncturist.
Acupuncture is a safe and generally painless therapy which is often
highly effective in treatment of back pain and neck pain. We offer
compassionate and knowledgeable care for many conditions that can lead
to these symptoms.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Modern research has shown that acupuncture can help the body to release
its own naturally occurring pain-relief chemicals, called endogenous
endorphins or endogenous opioids. Acupuncture promotes circulation and
reduces inflammation, resulting in a reduction in pain. Acupuncture has
also been shown to benefit patients with back pain in many other ways.
The effects of acupuncture on endorphins and anti-inflammatory chemicals
help to explain the immediate pain-relief that people experience.
However, these effects are not enough to fully explain the long-term
benefits that our patients often receive from acupuncture treatment.
Some scientific questions still remain about the way acupuncture works.
Our patients with chronic pain have often experienced long-term relief
of pain, ranging up to a year or longer. In many cases, our patients
have experienced what appears to be permanent pain relief
from a series of between 4 and 10 weekly sessions. We have seen these
results with back pain, neck pain, migraines, hip pain, shoulder pain,
and sciatica (a type of leg pain).
Of course, every individual case is different, and some cases require
more frequent sessions over a longer period of time. Some types of pain
respond to acupuncture better than others. Some types of back pain are
better treated by other methods. Within 2-3 sessions, it should be clear
whether or not acupuncture is likely to be helpful for your symptom or
We often recommend that patients have an imaging study such as an MRI to
better understand the potential causes of the pain. If you have already
had an MRI exam, it is helpful if you can bring this to your
appointment at our clinic.
The most common causes of chronic back pain include muscular pain and
disk herniation. For many patients suffering with these conditions,
acupuncture can offer an excellent support on the way to healing and
feeling good again. More than 90% of our patients with pain in the
following areas have excellent results with our care.
Pain in the Lower Back and Hips
Pain in this region is common. We provide treatment for pain due to
herniated lumbar disks, bulging disks, and a variety of nerve problems
that can arise in this area. Typically, our treatment is very effective
for patients with herniated or bulging discs. Relief usually begins
within 24 hours after the first visit. Improvements become progressively
greater over the following weeks of treatment.
Pain in the Upper Back and Shoulders
Pain in this region may occur due to muscular injury, misalignment of
the spine, posture, or scoliosis. Many people find relief through the treatments we provide for these types of pain.
Pain in the Neck and/or Shoulders
Pain in this region may occur due to habitual tension of the neck
muscles, shoulder injuries, or other conditions. Most of our patients
with neck pain experience rapid relief in a single session, but this pain may recur depending on a range of factors.
How Does Acupuncture Compare with Other Treatments for Pain?
Orthopedists and primary care providers will often recommend cortisone
injections to treat chronic back pain. Cortisone injections may help for
a time, but they can have significant short-term and long-term
side-effects, including bone loss, skin atrophy, tendon rupture, weight
gain, acne, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar in diabetics,
and reduced ability to fight infections. Frequent use of cortisone can
cause cataracts and in some cases, even the death of bone tissue in the
large joints (avascular necrosis).
Acupuncture helps in a majority of cases of chronic back pain, and does
not have any of the side effects of cortisone. In fact, the most common
side-effect of acupuncture is a feeling of being well-rested and
relaxed. Acupuncture has also been shown to strengthen the immune
system, improve blood sugar control, and reduce blood pressure in people
Most health insurance companies recognize the value of acupuncture for
back pain, and usually cover acupuncture for this purpose. Our patients
include marathon runners, dancers, triathlon athletes, and people of all
ages with minor or major aches and pains
"In my experience, most types of back pain tend to respond well to
acupuncture treatment. Back pain can have a variety of causes including
injury, disc problems, muscle strains, post-surgical complications,
cerebral palsy, scoliosis, or autoimmune disease (rarely). I have seen
acupuncture help my patients with these types of concerns. Among these,
the post-surgical complications may be more challenging to treat with
Dr. Eric Windsor, D.Ac.