Can Acupuncture Help My Lower Back Pain? Treatments For Back Pain

By Dr Ken Nakamura+

Can Acupuncture Help My Lower Back Pain: Toronto Downtown Chiropractor, Dr. Ken Nakamura

Are you considering getting acupuncture for your lower back?


Have you tried physiotherapy, chiropractic and rehabilitation for your lower back and it still hurts?


How do you know acupuncture is for you?


In this issue of Bodi Empowerment I go over the criteria you use to determine if you are a candidate for acupuncture.


First when I talk about acupuncture there are many forms of acupuncture. There is acupuncture for the ear called auricular acupuncture, Korean hand acupuncture, laser acupuncture which utilizes laser instead of a needle, acupressure techniques like Shiatsu and reflexology.


All of these have these acupuncture and acupuncture-like treatments are a derivative of the original acupuncture technique that was discovered in China thousands of years ago.


Here in our downtown Toronto chiropractic clinic we use sterile needle. While acupressure is used occasionally I find if you as a patient are agreeable it is more effective to use needles.


How Do You Know If Acupuncture Is Right For You?


You need to answer the following questions to see if acupuncture is right for your lower back pain:


Where Is Your Pain In Your Lower Back?


Is it painful?


Most people find they have very little pain with acupuncture in the lower back. When it comes to your lower back pain most people say that it feels like a small pinch. Others feel no pain at all.


Once in a blue moon I get a patient that says “Ow” that hurts. The pain goes away after a few seconds and most of these people are quite happy to have the needles stay in their lower back. It is a the rare person that just doesn’t want to have the needle stay in the their lower back since it is no longer hurting them but actually helping them.


Are you open to having needles in your lower back, leg and foot?


Yes, often needles are put in a leg or foot on the side of the pain in addition to the lower back. If the pain is acute, often I would not even put a needle in the lower back as it would aggravate the problem.


For the squeamish patients, that aren’t acute, I will just put needles in the lower back and avoid the foot and legs. This way you can understand that acupuncture doesn’t have to be very painful.


Why is it helpful to put needles in the leg and foot if the pain is in the lower back?


Acupuncture works by stimulating nerves. The nerves from the lower back go into the leg and eventually the foot. There are far more nerve ending in the foot than the lower back. By stimulating the acupuncture points in the foot there is more stimulation going up to the lower back.


All this this stimulation of the nerves eventually reaches the brain and helps ease the pain in your lower back, decreases inflammation and decrease your muscle tension.


How does acupuncture work?


Acupuncture works by stimulating the nerves which signals the brain that there is some stimulation. The brain releases endorphins which are the brain’s natural pain killer. Theses endorphins are more powerful than most drugs that we take but they are made naturally in the body.


The endorphins break down into anti-inflammatories which decrease the inflammation in your body.


Locally the needle causes a mico injury which causes stimulation of more blood flow to the area which is needed for healing the area.


When needles are put in hard muscles nodules called trigger points the muscle tension decreases quite dramatically in most cases very quickly. When just trying to decrease muscle tension I often leave the needle in for a minute or so.


How long are the needle left in?


Are you afraid but still willing to give it a go, and get acupuncture treatment?


I find most of you are in this situation. You’ve never had acupuncture but your lower back pain is severe enough or chronic enough that now you want to try. Most of you just need the reassurance that it’s safe.


Still Petrified?


For those that are really afraid I simply try a different approach than acupuncture. Any good chiropractor knows many techniques to help with your lower back. There is acupressure, using a Pointer Plus, which gives a battery device that give a weak stimulation, laser, manipulation, mobilisation, McKenzie technique etc….


Acupuncture Safety Checklist


  1. Are the needles sterile?
  • Many clinics in the developing world re-use needles but surprisingly some clinics in Toronto also re-use needles. There are no problems if you re-use needles if you re-sterilize them properly. The problem is that the sterilization process can go wrong.


  • The problem extends out to anything that is re-used after being in the body. Even hospitals have a hard time re-sterilizing equipment.


  • You can make sure you are getting a safe sterile needle by asking your health practitioner. You should see them in a package which are individually sealed or sometime in packages of 5.
  1. What kind of antibacterial/antiviral solution is used?


  • 50% alcohol is not good enough. Make sure that at least a 75% alcohol solution is used. I personally use chorlohexadine a surgical grade solution. If it’s good enough to use for surgery it’s good enough for my patients. Idodine is also fine but it will make you have dark brown patches all over.


  1. What Kind of Training Does My Practitioner Have?
  • Make sure your health practitioner has the proper licenses and certifications knows their anatomy and doesn’t re-use needles.



Is Acupuncture Effective?

  • there is moderate evidence that acupuncture is more effective than no treatment for short-term pain relief, and conflicting evidence for intermediate pain relief
  • there is also moderate evidence that acupuncture improves short-term function better than no treatment
  • 3 high quality studies provided strong evidence that when compared to sham acupuncture, acupuncture provides no significant benefit in short-term pain relief or functional gain, and pain relief at the end of treatment (NOTE: sham acupuncture in these studies included superficial needle insertion at non-acupuncture points) – it should be noted that acupuncture and sham acupuncture BOTH improve clinical outcomes consistently in most trials on a variety of clinical conditions


What does all this mean? That acupuncture is effective for pain relief. This is consistent with my finding in clinic. As I check each patient before and after acupuncture out of habit I find that the tests I use make a change for the better the vast majority of the time using acupuncture.


Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. I will answer all questions in the comments section here at this downtown Toronto Chiropractic clinic.











Dr Ken Nakamura

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