Acupuncture for low back pain
| Acupuncture & Natural Medicine Dr. Peng in Bethesda, Maryland
To many of us, low back pain will show up sometimes in our life time. It is the second most common
reason for doctor’s office visit. In a study of 1990, there estimated 9 millions people living in US
suffered low back pain. Among them, 2.4 millions of people lost work time. Despite of its common
occurrence, not much progress has been made on treating low back pain in conventional medicine.
Cortisol injection, physical therapy, short term bed rest, exercise and taking anti-inflammatory
drugs/pain killers remain as the primary managements for low back pain. Some are satisfied while
others are not.
Lower back pain represents a rather complicated group of diseases include disc related disorders,
spinal stenosis, facet joint arthritis, spondylolisthesis and acute back muscle strain. Among them,
lumbar disc bulging and herniation are the most common ones. In lumbar region, there are 5 lumbar
discs in between each lumbar vertebrae bone (L1-5) and first sacral bone (S1). The last disc between
L5 and S1 is the most problematic, followed by discs in L4-L5 and L3-L4. When bulged disc pinched
nerve, it causes severe pain. Worse, it could lead to sciatica, leading pain and numbness/tingling
down to lower leg and foot. It could also cause foot drop, difficult to walk. A typic low back pain often
come with the pain at sacroiliac joint pain and gluteus pain and piriformis pain as these are supported
by sciatica nerves.
Acupuncture is a well recognized therapy for low back pain. It is one of better choices compared with
many conventional methods. While historically acupuncture has been used for it, low back pain
remains the No.1 reasons for acupuncture. For some, low back pain can be resolved within three times
of treatment, for others, the pain can be cut by half within the six to eight treatments. In general, when
a patient responded to the acupuncture, the result can be seen relatively fast. The reduction of pain
by 50% is usually a goal to measurement. However, not all the patients responded to acupuncture
especially in some cases of spinal stenosis. But even for spinal stenosis, it is worth to try when
conventional interventions produce few benefits. In some patients, pain due to spinal stenosis is
inflammatory and acupuncture could help these patients to reduce significant pain.
Acupuncture worked by directly targeting the lumbar area. Needle insertion leads to anti-inflammatory
activity to reduce the disc related inflammation and swelling. As the consequence, reduced swelling
alleviates pressure on the nerve, leading to resolution of back pain and sciatica. A number of studies
have demonstrated acupuncture benefit for low back pain. The largest studied was done in 2005 over
a thousand patients, which showed acupuncture not only had short term effect, but also provides
benefit beyond 6 months.
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