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Acupuncture For Your Back Pain



Nearly 8 out of every 10 people will experience low back pain at some point in life. Back pain is the No. 1 reported reason for seeking acupuncture treatment. The good news is that chronic low back pain is one of the conditions that research suggests can be effectively treated by acupuncture.

Guidelines from the American Pain Society and American College of Physicians instruct doctors to consider acupuncture as an alternative therapy for patients with chronic low back pain that is not helped by conventional treatments. Some people choose acupuncture first as a safe and effective alternative to the side effects that can accompany conventional treatments. Others use acupuncture as a complementary approach, in conjunction with remedies such as chiropractic or physical therapy.

How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture uses extremely thin needles to stimulate specific points in the body that are connected along energy pathways called “meridians”. The energy that travels in these meridians is our vital life force energy, called Qi (“chee”). There are meridians that pass through our whole body, including our back. The ancient Chinese who discovered acupuncture over 5,000 years ago understood that pain in different areas of the body is a sign that the Qi energy has become imbalanced or obstructed in those areas. Acupuncture treatment determines which meridians are impacted when a patient has back pain and can balance it effectively.

Types of Acupuncture

Symptomatic acupuncture uses local acupuncture points and “trigger” points in the back to temporarily relieve a person’s back pain. For example, if a person’s back muscles are in spasm, the needle acts to “short-circuit” the tension-pain cycle between the muscle and associated nerve, thereby relaxing the tense muscle and relieving the pain. This symptomatic type of acupuncture, while effective in the short run, does not usually provide long-term benefits.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (also called TCM) diagnoses a person’s back pain according to a pattern of symptoms or a “syndrome,” such as “Deficient Yin of the Kidneys.” In addition to the local acupuncture points in the back, TCM uses a specific set of “distal” or non-local acupuncture points on the legs, in this case on the Kidney and Bladder meridians. The same set of acupuncture points, both local and distal, are used in rotation during a course of treatment. This “one size fits all” approach to acupuncture treatment is similar in some ways to how Western medicine sometimes uses a certain class of drugs to treat a given syndrome. This approach is sometimes referred to as “cookie-cutter medicine.” Indeed, TCM is the most common type of acupuncture practiced in the USA. While TCM’s effects can be more long-term than that of symptomatic acupuncture in relieving back pain, it is not necessarily a lasting result because TCM does not specifically address the root cause of the back pain for each individual.

A third type of acupuncture, Worsley 5 Element Acupuncture, diagnoses and treats the unique root cause of a person’s back pain. Rather than treat the same set of points over and over as in TCM, no two people with back pain (or any other problem, for that matter) ever receive the same set of acupuncture points in a course of 5 Element acupuncture treatment. Worsley 5 Element acupuncture customizes the treatment for the specific root cause of each person, so the treatment benefits can be deeper and longer lasting.

Our Approach

There are many different causes of back pain, and each person who suffers with back pain has their unique story. At the Acupuncture & Holistic Health Center, Dr. Michael Kowalski A.P., Dipl. Ac. and Dr. Tracy Kozak A.P. practice Worsley 5 Element acupuncture in order to provide their patients with the most holistic and complete results. We spend a minimum of one hour in consultation with each of our new patients, in order to get to the root cause of their back pain. If MRI, X-ray, or other imaging reports are available, we ask that our patients bring those in for us to use in planning their treatment. Even without any imaging studies, a course of Worsley 5 Element Acupuncture typically provides effective relief for back pain for less money than the cost of an MRI.