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Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

Man holding his back suffering with low back pains.Low back pain effects 75–90% of people at some point in their lives. It is a common cause of missed work and one of the top reasons people seek out medical treatment. As an acupuncturist, it is one of the things I treat most frequently and it responds very well to acupuncture—whether the condition is acute or chronic.

Acupuncture and Low Back Pain Studies

A German study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at 1,162 adults with chronic low back pain. One group was given the standard pharmaceutical and exercise therapy commonly used in Western medicine and the other group was given acupuncture. The researchers reported that acupuncture provided relief and lasting benefit to nearly twice as many lower back pain patients as the conventional methods.

Man laying on stomach with acupuncture needles in his back.In another recent study, researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine analyzed 33 studies covering more than 2,100 patients from around the world and determined that “acupuncture is a truly effective therapy that provides significant pain relief” for people suffering from chronic low back pain.1

Traditional Chinese Medicine Look On Low Back Pain

The three most common pathological conditions related to low back pain from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective are:

  • Retention of Damp-Cold: Pain is relieved by application of heat and is worse when the weather is cold and damp. Condition could be either acute or chronic. Pain is typically worse in the morning and better with light exercise.
  • Stagnation of Qi and Blood: Pain is severe, sharp and stabbing. The area is tender to the touch and does not respond to changes in weather. Pain is worse standing or sitting. Back muscles are stiff and rigid.
  • Kidney Deficiency: Chronic back problems. Pain is dull and comes in bouts. Better with rest and worse with overexertion.

1Ellen Beth Levitt, “Study Analysis Shows Acupuncture Effective for Treating Chronic Low Back Pain,”, April 18, 2005