Everything in the universe is connected. At least that’s the belief behind traditional acupuncture.
Practiced in China for well over 3,000 years, acupuncture is one of the most time-tested ancient healing sciences in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It’s a practice based on maintaining a balance of energies in the body.
Traditional Chinese acupuncture practitioners view the mind and body as equal segments of an individual’s energetic system, where vital energy known as Qi (pronounced “chee”) flows.
Practitioners believe there is a life force in each body with Yin, the passive element, and Yang, the excited element, perfectly balanced in harmony so that the body and mind can experience vibrant health.
The human body resembles an electrical circuit. When functioning properly, vital Qi energy flows freely. Should a break occur on the pathways through which energy flows, illness is the natural result. Too much or too little Qi, or an imbalance between Yin and Yang, also leads to poor health.
Acupuncture is simply the tool use to restore health by aligning vital energy points within the body. Thin needles inserted into specific points of your energetic system clears blockages interrupting the free flow and balance of Qi in the body — restoring health.
An introduction to amazing pain relief
The Western world was largely ignorant of acupuncture until 1971. It was reporter James Reston’s personal experience with the procedure detailed in the New York Times following an emergency appendectomy in China that brought widespread attention to the procedure.
The second night after his surgery, James experienced significant pain and discomfort in his stomach. He was impressed when it was successfully relieved through acupuncture.
The following year, during President Nixon’s historic visit to China, the president and his personal physician witnessed multiple surgeries where acupuncture was the only form of analgesia used.
These events ignited a tremendous amount of interest in acupuncture in America. Since then, numerous studies have proven acupuncture’s health benefits and over 8 million Americans have used acupuncture to relieve pain and improve almost every aspect of their health.
Scientifically proven back pain relief
One of the top reasons for visits to the doctor is for lower back pain.
It’s also one of the top reasons behind visits to acupuncturists… and for good reason. It works.
Eric Manheimer, director of database and evaluation for the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, lead a comprehensive review of 22 studies investigating the effectiveness of traditional Chinese acupuncture for chronic lower back pain.
Each study was carefully qualified to include only those where traditional acupuncture was the sole technique investigated and exclude studies which only included patients with acute back pain
or pregnancy-related back pain.
More importantly, Manheimer said, “We wanted the studies for the analysis to meet the highest scientific standards. As a way to account for a possible placebo effect, we looked at many studies that used “sham acupuncture” as a control group, where acupuncture needles were inserted only superficially or in the wrong place.”
Their final analysis of these double-blind studies where neither the researcher nor the patient knew if they were receiving real or sham acupuncture found properly applied acupuncture to be significantly more effective at controlling back pain than sham acupuncture.
Acupuncture clearly provided short term relief (defined as three weeks after last acupuncture treatment) as well as evidence it was effective over longer periods as well.
Should you try acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a very safe treatment modality effective not only at reducing back pain, but virtually any pain throughout the body. And since it uses needles 25-50 times smaller than standard hypodermic needles, most patients barely even feel them.
Acupuncture can help relieve stress and improve blood pressure regulation. It can also be helpful for treating respiratory, digestive, and gynecological issues.
Thanks to its proven effectiveness and lack of significant side effects, some insurance companies now cover acupuncture treatments too. For more information on acupuncture and to find a medical acupuncturist, a good starting point is the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture’s acupuncturist referral list.
Ehrlich S. Acupuncture. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide. University of Maryland Medical Center. 2009 Dec 14.
Freeman L. Mosby’s Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 2004.
Reston J. Now, Let Me Tell You About My Appendectomy In Peking… New York Times. 1971 Jul 26.
Levitt E. Study Analysis Shows Acupuncture Effective for Treating Chronic Low Back Pain. University of Maryland Medical Center. 2009 Mar 10.
Manheimer E, et al. Meta-Analysis: Acupuncture for Low Back Pain. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2005 Apr 19; 142(8):651-63.