Back pain is one of the leading causes of work-related sickness absence. Approximately 40% of people experience lower back pain at some point in their adult life. Acute episodes are usually less than 6 weeks in duration, while chronic lower back pain can last for more than 12 weeks.
There can be various causes ranging from strains in the muscles of the back, or a structural problem like a damaged vertebral disc which can result in a pinched or irritated nerve. Back pain can also be a symptom indicating a kidney infection. Western medical treatment in the acute phase is generally by pain relief with Paracetamol, and anti-inflammatories such as Diclofenac. In the long term physiotherapy is used to encourage, through exercises, the strengthening of the muscles of the back.
If backpain is persistent and non specific traditional acupuncture may be of help. In fact the use of traditional acupuncture in the treatment of low back pain received a significant endorsement in May 2009 when the National Institute of clinical Excellence, NICE published a guidance paper for GP’s recommending that they offer a course of 10 sessions of acupuncture as a first line treatment for persistent, non specific lower back pain, http://www.nice.org.uk/CG88
Traditional acupuncture regards symptoms like back pain as an indication that the body’s qi is out of balance in some way. The nature and extent of the imbalance is determined through diagnosis, and this is achieved through asking the patient to relate the history of the complaint, the nature of the symptoms, and information about what improves or aggravates them.
Treatment can be directed at either the root of the imbalance in the qi or the outward manifestation. In the case of lower back pain there are specific acupuncture points which can address the root or systemic cause of the problem; or points which can be used to alleviate the immediate pain and inflammation. It s not unusual to treat both the systemic cause and the outward manifestation in the same treatment.
The British Acupuncture Council has produced a number of research Fact Sheets on how acupuncture can help with a number of conditions, and discuss briefly the research available. The Fact Sheet dealing with back pain can be found at http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/back-pain.html and generally shows that acupuncture is significantly better than no intervention, and at least as effective as the standard Western medical interventions.