Try Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

low back clothed

Image Courtesy of ABMP

A recent meta analysis of research studies on acupuncture published in the journal Spine found that acupuncture may help with nonspecific chronic low back pain [2013, 38(24):2124-2138] (here’s the abstract). Although the wording in the conclusion sounds skeptical, in fact, by combining 25 research studies, they found a reduction in pain and increase in function compared with no treatment or usual care (even adding in medications).  This is great news for the millions who suffer from this common problem. Instead of constantly chugging pain killers and muscle relaxants, with their potential side effects,  they may find relief with this ancient, noninvasive, relatively inexpensive, therapy.

Chronic low back pain can be a very frustrating condition, especially for people who have seen doctors and never received a clear diagnosis. According to the National Institutes of Health:

Nearly everyone at some point has back pain that interferes with work, routine daily activities, or recreation. Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States — only headache is more common.{ref}

The same site also mentions that most low back pain goes away quickly. When it doesn’t, it can turn into a chronic condition. WEBmd gives a list of reasons for low back pain, including overuse, injury, herniated disks and aging, but the unfortunate truth is that

Often doctors don’t really know what causes low back pain. But it is more likely to become long-lasting (chronic) if you are under stress or depressed.{ref}

There are serious reasons for low back pain, especially when it is accompanied by tingling, pain, weakness, or numbness down the legs, or problems with bladder or bowel control. Some of these could be a narrowing of the spine (stenosis), a tumor, a fracture, or inflammation of the little joints, so it’s a good idea to see a doctor if rest and walking don’t relieve your symptoms, or if symptoms don’t go away within a few weeks.

It’s when doctors don’t know why someone has pain that they fall into the category of nonspecific. The doctor may want to try injections, which can help, but which are expensive and usually need to be repeated every few months. Our acupuncturist has extensive experience treating low back pain. He’s often had patients who lived with low back pain for years experience relief after a few treatments. Like with medications, some people need maintenance, meaning they come in once a month, or during occasional flare-ups, and we always recommend an exercise regime to improve strength and flexibility. I recommend reading the entire WebMD page on the issue. Page 2 here has some great ideas for helping with chronic low back back pain, things like wearing low heels and taking frequent breaks from sitting.

Did you notice the little blurb about stress causing low back pain to become chronic? Both acupuncture and massage can help you manage your stress and that alone could make a difference.

We’re always accepting new patients, and we take insurance. Give us a call at (541)420-6574 to get acupuncture for your aching back. Albert will be happy to answer any questions. Or email us at

About Ann

Ann Stanley has practiced massage and craniosacral therapy in Bend Oregon for the past nine years. She incorporates myofascial release and lomi-lomi techniques into her massage. She is writing a novel, plays the flute and piano and has a Ph D in applied mathematics. She did research for many years on mathematical models for the spread of infectious diseases, first at Los Alamos National Laboratory and then at Iowa State University.
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