Back pain is a common complaint and one of the most well known conditions that can be treated with acupuncture. According to statistics published by the NHS, back pain is a leading cause of disability, with lower back pain alone accounting for an amazing 11% of all disabilities among the adult population.
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain is usually a result of inflammation due to either injury, overuse or poor posture. As human beings, we are not designed to sit for long periods. However, in this digital age, more and more of us are finding ourselves tied to a desk for work and then slouching on a sofa in the evenings. Over time, this changes the structure of our backs, leading to inflammation, muscular tension, stiffness and pain.
Our spines are made up of string of small bones called vertebrae. The joints between these can also become inflamed as we age. Repeated bending, twisting and lifting can all take their toll and lead to an increased risk of back pain.
Back pain can also be caused by issues such as prolapsed discs. These discs are actually small sacs, filled with a gel-like substance which help to cushion our vertebrae as they move. If a disc begins to protrude from between the vertebrae, it can put pressure on the surrounding nerves causing back pain and other symptoms such as sciatica.
Medication for Back Pain
The most common medications for back pain are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. These effectively reduce inflammation and can be very helpful in an acute flare-up of back pain. However, if you are suffering from chronic back pain, they are not such a great solution. Long-term NSAID use can damage the lining of the digestive tract, increasing the risk of bleeding and ulcers. Additionally, they should not be taken by asthmatics, people with high blood pressure or heart disease, or during pregnancy.
Painkillers such as paracetamol or co-codamol may also be prescribed for back pain, but these are not problem free either. Long-term use of painkillers can lead to what are known as “rebound headaches” and other unwanted side effects such as constipation or drowsiness.
The other problem with these medications is that although they may effectively mask the symptoms of the problem, they do nothing to address the root cause. Therefore, if you are suffering from back pain, it is important that you see your doctor for a proper diagnosis before self-treating with over-the-counter medicines.
Acupuncture for Back Pain
Acupuncture provides a drug-free alternative for treating chronic back pain. It works in a number of different ways:
- Acupuncture relieves pain by changing the way our brains interpret pain signals received from the nerves of the back
- Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers
- Acupuncture and other therapies such as cupping relax the muscles of the back relieving tension and stiffness
- Acupuncture relieves inflammation
- Acupuncture improves local circulation to encourage faster healing
Because acupuncture is a natural treatment, it can be used safely by people of all ages. It stimulates the body’s ability to heal itself and works gently and effectively to relieve back pain.
How Many Treatments will I Need?
Acupuncture is not a quick fix like taking a painkiller, and it is likely that you will need several treatments to provide lasting results. Some people experience relief from back pain very quickly with acupuncture, but for others it may take a few weeks. Generally speaking, the longer you have had the pain and the more severe it is, the longer it will take to resolve.
How to Prevent and Relieve Back Pain Naturally
It is important to exercise regularly to keep your back strong and flexible in order to prevent back pain. If you suffer from back pain, avoid high impact sports like running which could make it worse. Swimming is a great choice as it takes the pressure of your back and joints as you exercise. Yoga, Pilates and tai chi are all great options too.
Check your Workstation
If you work at a desk, your posture can really suffer. Make sure that you have your workstation set up correctly with your monitor at eye-level, feet flat on the floor and your elbows and knees resting at a 90 degree angle. Take regular breaks to get out of your seat and stretch, or try some of these simple desk yoga exercises.
Spread the Load
If you regularly carry a bag, choose a rucksack which can be carried over both shoulders and do not overload it. Split shopping bags between both hands to keep your spine straight and your back happy.
If you need to lift a heavy load, using a good lifting technique can help to protect your back and prevent injury. Let your legs do the hard work and always ask for assistance if you need it.
Taking these simple steps could help to protect your back and prevent developing back pain. But if you are one of the millions of people already suffering from chronic back pain, why not put the painkillers to one side and give acupuncture a try?