Acupuncture For Your Chronic Lower Back Pain: Painful Or Not? Helpful or Not?

By Dr Ken Nakamura+

Acupuncture For Your Chronic Lower Back Pain: Painful Or Not? Helpful or Not? Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

Have you considered acupuncture for your chronic lower back pain?


Will acupuncture give you relief for your chronic lower back pain?


In this issue of Bodi Empowerment I reveal the things to look for in your health practitioner using acupuncture. I also go over if acupuncture will be painful for you or not, and if acupuncture can give your chronic lower back pain relief.


Is Acupuncture Painful?


The first thing that most people ask me is if it’s painful. When people are being treated by me in our downtown Toronto clinic, I often tell them that if you can take a pinch from my fingers, than you can do acupuncture. The needle feels like a pinch when it touches the skin, after that people normally just feel a pressure.


Especially when it comes to your lower back, some people getting acupuncture have no pain at all. Some people even say to me “did you already put it in”.


The pain you experience depends on a few factors. The skill of the person doing the acupuncture, where the needle is placed and more importantly the width of the needle.


Width is the most important factor as the thicker the needle is the more stimulation there is to the body. A typical medical doctor injecting you for a vaccine uses a hypodermic needles that are 0.79 mm thick to as thin as 0.30 mm. The average health practitioner doing acupuncture, on the other hand uses needles that are 0.22-0.30 mm thick. Generally speaking the needles are half as thick with acupuncture.


Acupuncture For Your Chronic Lower Back Pain: Painful Or Not? Helpful or Not? Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

Not only are acupuncture needles thinner they are don’t have a cutting edge. The hypodermic needles used by medical doctors are made to cut through muscle and nerves, whereas needles used in acupuncture are made to puncture like a knitting needle through yarn.


The knitting needle may go through the yarn but it won’t damage or cut the yarn. Similarly when an acupuncture needle hits a nerve it will not damage it. It simply stimulates the nerve which is the whole point of acupuncture, in order to decrease pain.


Your state of mind and your body fat  are the other factors which determines how painful things will be. People with more body fat tend to feel less. However if you are worried I don’t recommend gaining weight for your first acupuncture session. Just leave that one alone and concentrate more on your state of mind.


Try to be prepared mentally and get your body in a more relaxed state of mind. Try some Camomile tea, Lavendar Oil, Meditation, take a shower or  other relaxing things that helps you feel more at ease.



See Also: Chronic Lower Back Pain


If you aren’t afraid then you should get some acupuncture done without any preparation.


For those that are truly frightened, it’s not for you, but for the average person it is little to no pain in the lower back. You tend to feel it more in the hands, feet and face as there are more nerves but it still feels like a strong pinch.


What To Look For With Your Acupuncturist?


Providing that they are trained properly you should look to make sure that they use brand new sterile one-time use needles. You would be surprised, there was one medical doctor and an acupuncturist in Toronto that was re-using needles.


Re-using needles usually fine if they are re-sterilized, but the problem is when the chemicals and autoclave (sterilizing machine) don’t work properly. Cut a few corners like diluting the chemicals or cutting the time short in the autoclave could mean trouble. One Toronto acupuncturist caused a lot of problems a few years ago.


See Also: Best Exercises For Sciatica



Make sure your acupuncturist sterilizes the area that your health practitioner is going to needle. While working in the UK I had patients telling me repeatedly that they had acupuncture through their cloths.


When getting acupuncture through your cloths, your chiropractor can’t tell where the acupuncture point is. Even scarier is that the needle will pick up whatever is in the clothing including bacteria, viruses and insert them into your body.


Your chiropractor or acupuncturist should be using alcohol or better yet iodine. In our downtown Toronto Chiropractic clinic we use Chlorohexidine.


This is a surgical grade anti-septic which kills virtually everything unlike alcohol.  In this day of Super Bugs or antibiotic resistant bacteria your health practitioner should be extra vigilant.


Which Health Professional?

There are numerous health practitioners that practice acupuncture in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. There are”

  • Medical Doctors
  • Chiropractors
  • Physiotherapists
  • Dentists
  • Naturopaths
  • Acupuncturists
  • Massage Therapist -can do acupuncture in Ontario


Naturopaths, Medical Doctors and Acupuncturists can pretty much treat all conditions while Dentist should stick to using acupuncture either in place of anaesthesia or for pain control around the teeth or jaw.


Chiropractors and physiotherapists are best suited to treated pain of various sources but limited to pain from muscles nerves and joints.


Does Acupuncture Work?



The good news is that acupuncture for chronic lower back really does work.[1-5] Numerous randomized controlled trails have proven this. 


See Also: 6 Lower Back Exercises You Shouldn’t Do


If your medical doctor tells you acupuncture doesn’t work then your doctor needs to keep up to date and more disturbingly isn’t aware of the evidence-based treatments that are available for the treatment for your chronic lower back pain and a myriad of other conditions.


Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. This Toronto Downtown Chiropractor will answer all questions in the comments section.




1. Manheimer E at al. Meta-analysis: acupuncture for low back pain. Ann Int Med 2005; 142: 651-663.

2. Furlan AD et al. Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain [review]. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005: CD001351.

3. European Guidelines for the management of chronic non-specific low back pain. European Commission COST B13 Management Committee; 2004.

4. Yuan J et al., Effectiveness of acupuncture for low back pain – A systematic review, Spine 2008; 33(23): E887-E900.

5. Cherkin DC et al. A randomized trial comparing acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and usual care for chronic low back pain, Archives of Internal Medicine 2009; 169(9): 858-866.


Dr Ken Nakamura

2 Responses to Acupuncture For Your Chronic Lower Back Pain: Painful Or Not? Helpful or Not?
  • Charu says:
    September 30, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    My husband has been suffering from frozen shoulder (I think) – he cannot raise his arm. What would be the best mode of treatment? Also does accupuncture help at all? He was turned away by a physio saying they cannot treat him.
    What are his options?

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      September 30, 2014 at 11:45 pm

      Thanks for your question Charu. Here is an article on frozen shoulder that should help.

      Try the exercises first. If may or may not be enough. If not acupuncture does help along with mobilisation. I would try another chiropractor or physiotherapist. You were turned away as that person is not used to treating frozen shoulder or didn’t know acupuncture.

      Hope that helps your frozen shoulder.

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Bodi Empowerment is an online health magazine. We are dedicated to empowering people, by guiding their step-by-step self-treatment, in areas of rehabilitation and nutrition. We are headquartered in the financial district of downtown, Toronto.