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Whether it lasts for a few days or months, back pain is uncomfortable and hard to live with. Besides conventional treatments like painkillers, acupuncture can be used to ease the discomfort it causes. But does it work?
Back pain, whilst common, can be an extremely limiting problem that makes everyday tasks uncomfortable – sometimes even impossible. It can affect people of any age, reducing mobility and damaging wellbeing. For some, back pain comes and goes quickly, making it little more than an annoyance. However, for some, it can remain long-term, intensifying the need for treatment.
Causes of back pain
The most common causes of back pain have their origin in everyday behaviours, the effects of which build up over time. If you’ve had to bend repeatedly for extended periods of time, lifted heavy objects, or overuse your muscles during sport, you might experience back pain . Even sitting at your desk every day at work can be a factor if you don’t take regular breaks to stand and move around, or you adopt a poor posture.
Occasionally, your back pain may be being caused by a medical condition. Lower back pain can be a symptom of a slipped disc, which is often accompanied by a tingling sensation in the leg. As a type of joint pain, it might also signal arthritis. These conditions require medical attention on top of treatment for back pain, so make sure to see your GP in the first instance.
Treatments for back pain
Short-term back pain often goes away by itself, aided by at-home treatments like over-the-counter painkillers and hot/cold compression packs. However, longer-term pain that lasts for a number of weeks requires more targeted treatment.
Your GP will typically prescribe some stronger painkillers to help ease the pain. On top of this, they may recommend exercise classes such as yoga or pilates to help improve posture and eliminate pain through movement. Physiotherapy can also help you manage chronic, long-term pain.
Another treatment often used to tackle long term back pain is acupuncture. A form of treatment derived from Chinese medicine, acupuncture is increasingly incorporated into a holistic approach to pain management and often used in conjunction with physiotherapy and chiropractic techniques.
What does acupuncture involve?
In an acupuncture treatment, fine needles are inserted into acupuncture points on the body, usually 10-12, which are sites thought to affect tissue and organ function. Doing so releases endorphins, a pain-killing substance produced by the body.
A session normally lasts between 20-40 minutes, and a number of sessions are often needed to feel the full benefits. Acupuncture has very few complications, but it is worth noting that some people experience bleeding and bruising, or drowsiness.
The needles are treated like any medical needles: sterile and disposed of immediately after use. This protects against the risk of infection.
How effective is it?
Opinion is mixed on how effective acupuncture is. Many scientists are sceptical because traditional acupuncture is not backed up by scientific evidence – it aims to restore the flow of life-force, or ‘Qi’, around the body.
However, the kind practiced by healthcare providers is known as Western medical acupuncture, which is based entirely on scientific evidence showing its ability to stimulate nerves in skin and muscle tissue , releasing pain-relieving endorphins. This can be beneficial for certain conditions such as osteoarthritis and lower back pain, especially when used to complement traditional pain relief methods.
Our free joint pain guide can also help you to manage pain and get back to doing what you love most.
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