Acupuncture for Back Pain
In my clinic in Tampa, FL one of the most common problems I use acupuncture for is low back pain. One of the most common problems I see are Herniated / bulging discs that cause low back pain. Let’s talk about how acupuncture can help this common problem without surgery!
The discs are shock absorbers between the back bones (vertebrae).The spinal nerves exit near the discs, and if there is anything causing inflammation around these nerves, you’re going to feel it. Discs are like a jelly donut and wear and tear over time can cause the outside to get weak and squirt jelly out. This jelly can cause irritation around your nerves and cause the nerve to get inflamed and cause pain signals to get sent to your brain.
What are your options?
Typically you get told you have 3 main options – over the counter NSAIDs, a steroid injection (epidural) & finally surgery, let’s dive into these before we talk about why acupuncture is the best option.
NSAIDS (Advil / Aleve)
Over the counter medication (NSAIDS) such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen are common choices. If this does not control the pain their doctor may provide stronger prescription medication. However these medication may come with side effects such as addiction, heart damage, liver damage, and GI bleeding. Because of its overuse the U.S. is currently experiencing a crisis known as the opioid epidemic.
Cortisone Steroid Injection
These literally just stop the inflammatory process in its tracks, which in the short term can be great and calm down pain. The problem is they are absolutely terrible for the tissue they’re injected into – they literally eat it up and turn it into swiss cheese. Studies show they might help in the short term but long term the outcomes are actually worse. They increase the chances your pain will re-occur and increase the chances you will require surgery. So not a good option.
Herniated Disc Surgery (discectomy)
While surgery gets sold as this magical fix all, it’s not. Surgery for herniated discs can help relieve the pressure for a disc bulging on a nerve but in the end it makes the disc weak. There is no repair happening here – all the surgeon does is literally cut a part of your disc off. This leaves the jelly donut of a disc with a nice big weak spot. It also leaves the 4 layers of muscle and ligaments in your back weaker. So now you’re vulnerable to re-herniate your back.
When it comes to acupuncture, it’s like anything else in the world, there’s a million different ways to practice it. What makes my clinic in Tampa, FL unique is that I practice a special type of acupuncture that is by far the most modern and BEST approach for pain – Neurofunctional Acupuncture.
The official definition of neurofunctional acupuncture is “a precise peripheral nerve stimulation technique, in which fine solid needles are inserted into neuro-reactive loci, and stimulated manually or with electricity for the therapeutic purpose of modulating abnormal activity of the nervous system.”
In other words, we stick needles in people (in a controlled, specific manner) to affect the nervous system (e.g. wake things up, calm them down or reduce pain signals). We also often include some electrical stimulation on the needles to further affect the nervous system.
How does acupuncture help with pain?
There are many ways in which electroacupuncture affects pain. Locally, one of the biggest factors is the release of certain neurotransmitters that affect whether or not pain signals are transmitted up to the brain. Electroacupuncture also modulates pain signalling and perception at other levels of our nervous system, all the way up to the brain.
When it comes to pain, you can treat the symptoms by taking NSAIDs, getting a cortisone injection or even surgery – or you could jump to the root cause of the problem and use Neurofunctional Acupuncture to resolve the problem without hard drugs or surgery.
If you’re sick of your back always hurting then maybe it’s time to think about a different approach. As always feel free to reach out to me for a free 15 minute phone consultation!