Lower back pain is a worldwide problem. According to the Global Burden of Disease 2012 report, it is the single leading cause of disability globally and it affects over one half of all people in the U.S. The American Chiropractic Association estimates that 80% of people will experience back pain as some point in their lives.

The statistics about back pain are sobering, indeed. With the prevalence of the condition, we must always be on the lookout for new methods of treatment. 

Admittedly, acupuncture isn’t a new method of treatment–it’s been used for thousands of years by the Chinese–but it is beginning to show research-based benefits when it comes to lower back pain.

In a 2012 study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a five-year research program examined acupuncture’s effects on nearly 18,000 individuals, who had complaints ranging from back pain to chronic headaches, osteoarthritis, and neck pain. The rigorous study analyzed the data from 29 randomized controlled trials on acupuncture, with control groups that received no treatment at all, as well as those who received placebo needles (needles that didn’t prick the skin).

Researchers found a statistically significant benefit for using acupuncture over placebos or no treatment at all. 

For those who had a pain rating of 60, on a scale from 1 to 100, the pain dropped to an average of 30 for those who received acupuncture. This was the first large-scale meta-analysis done to measure the effects of acupuncture and it goes a long way towards showcasing the benefits of the time-honored treatment.

Researchers are still not entirely sure how acupuncture works, but its benefits may be attributed to its effects on the levels of endorphins and adenosine in the body. Endorphins influence mood and are distributed throughout the nervous system. Adenosine influences inflammation and sleep. Together, and through the redirection of energy so integral to acupuncture, researchers may eventually understand exactly how and why acupuncture works. With this, and other research on the subject, using acupuncture for back pain may become a fundamental treatment option for the many people who suffer from the condition.

Have you ever received acupuncture? Do you suffer from lower back pain? 

Image by Marnie Joyce via Flickr


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