While 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, 65 million Americans live with chronic or persistent back pain that can negatively impact nearly every aspect of daily life. Both OTC and prescription painkillers, which are commonly recommended for chronic pain, have potential side effects and risks that range from gastric complications to addiction and worse. Some opt for surgery, but the success rate of these procedures varies widely and the post-op recovery time can be weeks or even months.
Patients seeking safe, long-term solutions to chronic pain have increasingly turned East, to acupuncture, an ancient and holistic approach to pain mitigation. Along with massage, acupuncture for chronic back pain offers a gentle and effective way to find relief without the risk of dangerous side effects.
Acupuncture for Chronic Pain
According to Johns Hopkins University, acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system. This in turn releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being. Acupuncture can be used to relieve all kinds of pain—acute or chronic, musculoskeletal or internal. Along with back pain, acupuncture is frequently used to treat neck pain, nausea, migraines, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even infertility. Here’s how we think it works:
1. Quiets Pain Signals
When you’re in pain, you just want relief. Acupuncture helps to quiet those aggravating pain signals so you can get some healing rest.
Studies show that acupuncture releases pain-relieving endorphins and feel-good hormones. These chemicals not only help you feel less pain but also reduce your stress and encourage healthy sleep.
2. Improves Circulation
There’s an old saying in Chinese medicine, “Where there is stagnation, there is pain. Where there is free flow, there is no pain.”
One of the most essential functions of acupuncture is to encourage healthy “free flow” of blood, energy (qi), and fluids through the painful area. Along with relieving your pain, better circulation also brings healing resources to damaged tissues so they can finally heal.
3. Relaxes Tight Muscles
Acupuncture and massage have many things in common, especially when it comes to muscles. Like a good deep tissue massage, acupuncture relaxes tense muscles and trigger points that cause pain.
4. Clears Inflammation
Angry back? Osteoarthritis? Nerve pain? You’ve got inflammation. Thankfully, acupuncture can help. Studies show that acupuncture significantly lowers inflammation to calm your back pain and prevent tissue damage.
5. Relieves Stress
Stress and pain seem to be inseparable. Is your chronic back pain causing stress, or is your stress triggering your back pain? Either way, therapies like acupuncture and massage can help.
Aside from getting some peace and quiet, acupuncture also fights stress by reducing your cortisol levels. Lower cortisol in your blood means less stress, less inflammation, better sleep, and a healthier back.
Find Your Fix for Chronic Back Pain
You are unique—and so is your back pain. Whether you try acupuncture to ease the burden of an aching back, book a therapeutic in-home massage, or start with some simple exercises for back pain, the key to a healthier back is finding the self-care tools that work for you.