Back Pain Simplified: Notes from a Senior Acupuncturist

There are numerous ways to treat back pain using acupuncture needles.  In the ancient texts, distal points were first chosen and then if necessary local points were added.  In my experience, it is best to use distal points, points away from the area of pain and limit the number of needles possible to get the greatest results.

TCM/Acupuncture schools encourage the use of local points in the treatment of pain.  This allows the novice acupuncturist to learn point location and develop a good understanding of the anatomical structure of the body. It also reinforces the knowledge of the needles in relation to the underlying organs to prevent injury. But the use of many needles may run the risk of causing a negative result resulting in soreness after a treatment.

Distal Acupuncture For Pain

Here is a brief explanation of pain and the rationale behind using distal points. Stimulating acupuncture points that are distal or away from the area of discomfort produces a reduction in the symptoms. These changes occur during the acupuncture treatment which validates the effectiveness of the treatment.  The changes that occur during the session will continue for a few hours or many days.  Typically, very few needles are required to bring the pain level to a very low or non-existent level.

One of the earliest Chinese reports of acupuncture treatment of frozen shoulder was published in 1991 (1), based on a simple treatment method. The author of the article, Zhang Maohai, claimed to have found an effective therapy through his experiences. He focused on one acupuncture point, yanglingquan (GB-34), located on the leg, which he said seemed more effective than treating multiple points. The point was needled on one side only, the same side as the affected shoulder. In rare cases where this same side treatment did not seem to be helpful, the point was needled on the other leg instead. Click here to read more!

For further explanation on distal acupuncture click on this link.

Improvement in painful conditions is dependent on three factors; the severity of pain, the chronicity of the pain and the health or age of the person.  If the pain is acute, has occurred within the past few days, and the patient exercises regularly and has a good diet, the pain may resolve quite quickly.  However, if the person has sustained a severe injury or the condition is chronic, over 1 year, or the patients has several other health conditions the improvement may be occur more slowly.

Please note, there is a rise in health care providers with limited training who are practicing dry-needling.  Dry needling is acupuncture. Practitioners performing dry needling are causing extensive damage such as puncture of the lung and paralysis.  Care must be taken when a person who is not a Registered Acupuncturist suggests dry-needling.  Your answer should be a firm no!

Dry needling is an invasive procedure. Needle length can range up to 4 inches in order to reach the affected muscles. The patient can develop painful bruises after the procedure and adverse sequelae may include hematoma, pneumothorax, nerve injury, vascular injury and infection. Post procedure analgesic medications may be necessary (usually over the counter medications are sufficient). Click here to read more!

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