Can Medical Acupuncture Help My Back Pain?

By Athlete's Care on January 07, 2022

Back pain is one of the most common symptoms treated by the physiotherapists, chiropractors and other sports medicine specialists at our Toronto clinics. The back is a complex region of the body, where the body’s major bones and soft tissues come together in an intricate kind of architecture.

The key to treatment lies in determining the root cause, with a range of treatments available depending on the diagnosis. One treatment option that many patients aren’t aware of is medical acupuncture.

Does Medical Acupuncture Help?

Modern science isn’t sure just how medical acupuncture works. But, both research studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that many people have found relief from chronic back pain with medical acupuncture treatment. One study suggests it may even be more effective than some pain medications.

  • The first step will always be a thorough evaluation. Your Toronto physiotherapist or other sports medicine specialist will determine whether you are a good candidate for medical acupuncture.
  • The acupuncturist will determine the correct placement of the insertions for your condition.
  • You probably won't feel the needles at all.

When it comes to back pain, medical acupuncture is most often used for patients with persistent chronic back pain, and can provide an alternative to drug therapies.

Medical acupuncture isn’t generally a once-only treatment. Many patients experience relief within two or three treatments, but an extended course of treatment may be even more beneficial.

The Evidence

One study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, (Acupuncture for Chronic Pain) used randomized controls to analyze data from more than 17,900 patients.

“In the primary analysis, including all eligible RCTs, acupuncture was superior to both sham and noacupuncture control for each pain condition,” researchers noted.

  • Patients experienced less pain;
  • The best results were found for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headache, in that order.

“Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral

option. Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo.”

Other review studies from 2013 backed up the positive results when it came to chronic lower back pain.

What to Expect

What does acupuncture involve? Very thin needles are inserted at different depths into specific points in your body.

While the practice dates back thousands of years as part of traditional Chinese medicine, Western medicine has been taking notice of the results in much more recent times. More and more, it is recognized as a useful medical treatment, covered by many private extended health care plans.

While modern medicine still can't define exactly how acupuncture works, it is believed that the thin needles stimulate the nervous system, so that it sends the signals that trigger responses such as endorphins, neurotransmitters, and other elements in the body that promote healing and pain relief.

  • Some evidence also suggests that acupuncture may affect involuntary body functions such as blood flow and temperature regulation.
  • Some practitioners believe the evidence points to the way acupuncture may be able to influence the way the body responds to chronic pain.

If you experience chronic back pain, and you’d like to explore medical acupuncture or other therapy options, don’t hesitate to contact our Toronto physiotherapy and chiropractic offices for a consultation. Our physiotherapists and other sports medicine specialists are ready with answers to your questions.