You are not alone. Up to 80% of the population suffers from low back pain at some point in their lifetime and often times can become chronic. Interestingly, people don’t first think of using acupuncture for back pain but it is truly one of the, if not the, quickest forms of pain relief. Listed below are some of the reasons your back can hurt and acupuncture can tackle all of these.
1. Herniated disc. Spinal disks are the cushions between your vertebrae that have a soft center and a thicker exterior. A disc herniation happens when some of the soft center pushes out through a crack in the outer portion of the disk. This “herniation” may irritate or compress a nearby spinal nerve root causing back pain along with pain, numbness or weakness that can radiate into the affected leg.
2. Muscle strain. A muscle strain, or pulled muscle, occurs when your muscle is overstretched or torn. This usually occurs as a result of fatigue, overuse, or improper use of a muscle.
3. Sciatica. Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Much like a herniated disc, sciatica affects only one side of your body.
4. Degenerative disk disease (DJD). DJD is when wear and tear takes place in the disks of your spine. Spinal disks are like shock absorbers between the vertebrae, or bones, of your spine. They help your back stay flexible, so you can bend and twist. As you get older, they can show signs of wear and tear.
5. Spinal Stenosis. Spinal stenosis (or narrowing) is a common condition that occurs when the small spinal canal, which contains the nerve roots and spinal cord, becomes compressed. This causes a “pinching” of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, which leads to pain, cramping, weakness or numbness.
There is a 70-80% success rate with acupuncture because it works in a variety of ways to manage low back pain.
Acupuncture can relieve pain by releasing endorphins (think opiods), the body's natural pain-killing chemicals. The natural release of endorphins is quite different from simply taking an opiate drug in that endorphins cause a cascade of chemical reactions in the body to help you manage pain and feel better. In particular, endorphins work with the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine as well as the hormone oxytocin. All of these can help decrease pain control as well improve mood and relaxation.
Another very powerful way in which acupuncture can improve pain is through the endocannabinoid system. If we break down the word endocannabinoid this may make more sense. Cannabinoid (think cannabis, CBD buzz) and Endo (that which we produce
within our own body). Acupuncture naturally elicits that feel good, pain-reducing endocannabinoid system which has receptor sites located throughout the body.
To make good news even better, the cannabinoid and opioid systems share space on the brain and spinal cord, and receptors from both can be found in areas of the brain that control sensations of pain. This is why cannabis and opioid drugs are able to produce similar effects in reducing pain. Given that acupuncture uses all of these pain control systems at one time, should be any surprise that it is one of the best ways to reduce your pain!
How fast can it work? For acute back pain, acupuncture can work in one to three treatments. For more chronic cases it may take three to eight treatments (rarely more) to greatly reduce or completely rid your pain.
Friday, October 25th, 2019
Jeannette Painovich, DAOM, L.Ac., M.A.
Call Us: 562-431-4120
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine