How Effective is Acupuncture for Back Pain?

Amanda R. Bell
Amanda R. Bell
Acupuncture is sometimes helpful.
Acupuncture is sometimes helpful.

Acupuncture has been proven by scientists to be an effective form of back pain treatment. The success of acupuncture for back pain reduction depends almost entirely on the type of practitioner and the placement of the needles. While some patients do not respond to acupuncture, it is considered one of the oldest methods of pain relief known to man. It is also one of few alternative treatments often recommended by modern doctors.

The placement of the needles is a major factor in the effectiveness of acupuncture.
The placement of the needles is a major factor in the effectiveness of acupuncture.

When one uses acupuncture for back pain treatment, it is important to go to a certified traditional Chinese acupuncturist. While there are several forms of acupuncture, this is the only one that has been scientifically proven to help treat back pain. In several studies, other forms of acupuncture — sometimes known as sham acupuncture — were used in a control group to determine the effectiveness of the traditional Chinese practice. These other forms of treatment where found, at best, to only have a placebo effect.

The effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain depends on the quality of the practitioner and the placement of the needles.
The effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain depends on the quality of the practitioner and the placement of the needles.

The position of needles during treatment is the key to the success of acupuncture for back pain reduction. This practice follows different lines of the body, with needles often inserted at the farthest point from where the pain is actually felt. When treating back pain, needles are often placed in the feet or ears to reduce pain. Incorrect placement of the needles can eliminate the effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain treatment, which is another reason why visiting a certified practitioner is essential to successfully reducing back pain.

Even with the best practitioner, some people simply do not respond to acupuncture. This is to be expected with almost any medical treatment, alternative or otherwise. This lack of response does not minimize the effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain treatment overall any more than a lack of response, for example, to acetaminophen reduces its pain killing efficiency. Research has shown that the vast majority of patients, when treated by a qualified acupuncturist, notice significant improvements in their back pain. Many doctors routinely recommend their patients visit an acupuncturist for their back pain before resorting to more invasive treatments such as surgery.

While acupuncture has been proven an effective means of treating back pain, scientists have yet to figure out exactly how and why it does work. There are some side effects too. Even when done by the most qualified practitioner, acupuncture can sometimes cause bleeding, infection, and bruising. As with any medical decision, patients should always discuss options with their doctor before undergoing treatment.

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    • Acupuncture is sometimes helpful.
      Acupuncture is sometimes helpful.
    • The placement of the needles is a major factor in the effectiveness of acupuncture.
      The placement of the needles is a major factor in the effectiveness of acupuncture.
    • The effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain depends on the quality of the practitioner and the placement of the needles.
      The effectiveness of acupuncture for back pain depends on the quality of the practitioner and the placement of the needles.