In the UK back pain is the leading cause of disability and one of the main reasons for work-related sickness absence. It affects over 1.1 million people in the UK, with 95% of patients suffering from problems affecting the lower back.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines on best practice now recommend acupuncture as a first line treatment for persistent, non-specific low back pain*.
* National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence clinical guideline 88 – Low back pain. www.nice.org.uk/CG88
More often than not lower back pain is caused not by serious damage or disease. It is more commonly the result of muscle strains or sprains, minor injuries, or an entrapped nerve.
Research has shown that acupuncture is very effectice at treating lower back pain (Witt 2006; Haake 2007; Cherkin 2009; Sherman 2009a), and is particularly when used conjunction conventional care (Sherman 2009a, 2009b; Lewis 2010).
Acupuncture can help back pain by:
• providing pain relief – by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987; Zhao 2008).
• reducing inflammation – by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007;Zijlstra 2003).
• improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility – by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling and bruising.
• reducing the use of medication for back complaints (Thomas 2006).
• improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises (Ammendolia 2008; Yuan 2008).