Working adults represent 63% of the population and account for 72% of all low back pain health care visits. Low back pain has been identified categorically as acute, subacute, or chronic, depending on the onset, duration, and severity. Risk factors have included occupational posture, depressive moods, obesity, gender, and age, and risk is most likely affected by a combination of several of these variables. Low back pain is not a disease but rather a group of signs and symptoms that affects all age groups across the lifespan. It has been shown to be more common from age 35 to 55, with a higher prevalence in women.
Acupuncture may help improve quality of life as well as reduce lost workplace productivity through more effective and sustained pain relief.4,5 Stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues with the application of fine needles may lead to the release of endorphins and other neuro-humoral factors.6The expected result is a change in pain processing between the brain and spinal cord.
Acupuncture has demonstrated efficacy in reducing inflammation by promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors and increasing local microcirculation.6-8 In turn, this may support better joint movement and relief of muscle stiffness as well as aid the healing of swelling and bruising.6,7
While the evidence for acupuncture remains inconclusive, there are a growing number of studies offering clinical support for the benefits of using acupuncture to address LBP.
Lumbar muscle strains and sprains are the most common causes of low back pain. Many “weekend warriors” experience injuries and pain from trying to tackle large home projects, such as painting the exterior of their home or doing their own landscaping.
The low back is susceptible to strain because of its weight-bearing function and connection in movements, such as twisting and bending. Muscle strain is caused when muscle fibers are over-stretched or torn. Inflammation is common at the site of injury, usually accompanied by pain with movement. Muscle cramping or spasms can occur, as well as decreased function and/or range of motion.
The modern scientific explanation is needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain, including endorphins, encephalin (a type of endorphin) and other neurochemicals. These natural chemicals may either change the pain experience or trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones that influence the body's own internal regulating system. This can bring about a normalizing effect on neuroendocrine (nerve and hormone) function. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Most patients in my practice come to see me for pain relief. Neck and back pain are the most common conditions. Since acupuncture is usually sought out last after more conventional medicine has not achieved the desired result, many of my patients are surprised at how effective it this centuries old method can be. It’s a very rewarding experience to see my patients able to either be pain-free or living with less pain!