Can Acupuncture Help Neck or Back Pain

Can Acupuncture Help Neck Or Back Pain

Medication isn’t always the first line of treatment when you’ve got neck or back pain.

Sometimes other remedies and treatments can help to offer relief. In fact, trying an alternative treatment such as acupuncture can be highly beneficial to you.

How does acupuncture work?

Based on traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture balances the life force, or qi, of the patient to encourage health. Qi flows through pathways in the body, and it can be accessed by acupuncture points in the body with the use of needles.

If you’re interested in trying acupuncture, you might wonder if it could alleviate or eliminate your back or neck pain.

Here’s everything you need to know about back pain acupuncture.

What Conditions Acupuncture Can Treat

Needles On Doll

Many people in the U.S. will go to an acupuncturist when they have pain, but this Chinese medicine has been said to treat a variety of different conditions successfully.

As reported by the National Institutes of Health (via John Hopkins Medicine), these include:

How Acupuncture Works For Back Pain

Back Pain Acupuncture

It’s interesting to see that lower back pain is considered to be a condition that can be treated with acupuncture, but how does it work?

There have been studies to confirm that acupuncture can be beneficial in treating and alleviating back pain.

Here are some key points that have been shown in research, as reported by Practical Pain Management.

  • When muscles and other tissues in the back are stimulated with needles during acupuncture, this causes the body to release endorphins which help the body to perceive pain differently. These mood-boosting chemicals can make you feel in better control of your back pain, for example, which can help you better manage your pain.
  • Acupuncture is an effective treatment to decrease inflammation. This is because it stimulates the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors, as well as improves local circulation. This leads to other benefits, such as improving how bruising heals and relieving muscle stiffness.
  • A 2006 study that was published in the Journal Of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research found that acupuncture relieves back pain in people who have chronic back pain that has lasted for longer than six months. Although research does look promising, more research is required to find out if acupuncture can help people who have different types of back pain.
  • Research published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal has found that acupuncture can be just as, if not more, effective as morphine for reducing chronic pain. Morphine has a peak effect of 20 minutes when given intravenously and 60 minutes when given orally. It usually lasts for up to seven hours. As for acupuncture, it has an immediate pain-relieving effect – it takes effect in less than half an hour and can last for up to three days! Therefore, acupuncture could be seen as a good alternative to strong analgesic medication.

What About Acupuncture For Neck Pain?

Neck Acupuncture

There are mixed studies as to the effectiveness of acupuncture for neck pain, although research has shown that it can reduce pain and improve neck functioning in the short-term, as Spine Health reports.

In addition, acupuncture can be beneficial for neck pain because it lowers stress levels. There’s often a link between stress and the tightening of neck muscles, so that is promising.

Will Acupuncture Work For Acute Pain?

Acute pain, which can be described as pain that lasts less than three months, can also be relieved by acupuncture.

Research that was published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal found that real acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture (a control that’s used in scientific studies to test how effective real acupuncture is) when it comes to decreasing acute pain – and the effects are immediate!

How Many Treatments Will Be Required For Back Pain?

You will need between one to three treatments for back pain acupuncture, as Best Health reports.

However, the number of sessions you need for back and neck pain will vary depending on why you’re suffering from pain, to begin with.

In addition, if your neck or back pain is a result of lifestyle issues such as sitting at a desk all day with incorrect posture, you might need more treatment unless you work to improve those bad habits.

Back Pain Acupuncture: What Are The Side Effects?

Low Back Acupuncture

One of the biggest benefits of acupuncture is that it doesn’t have many side effects.

If you’re tired of dealing with various side effects from taking painkillers or prescription drugs for your pain, then this will probably sound very appealing!

That said, there are some acupuncture side effects to know about.

  • Feeling that your pain is getting worse instead of better. This is known as a healing crisis in natural medicine and it refers to how your body is making changes in order to become healthier. After an acupuncture session, you might feel that your symptoms are getting worse instead of better. However, you’re probably more self-aware because acupuncture switches on your self-healing ability, as The Huffington Post reports. So, you might not actually be in more pain but just be more aware of your pain.
  • Soreness, but this usually dissipates after 24 hours.
  • Bruising, but this is rare.
  • Lightheadedness. This can happen due to practical reasons, such as if you get off the acupuncture table too quickly after a session or as a result of not eating before a session. This is why it’s important to eat something about two hours before an acupuncture session so that your body isn’t depleted.

There are some serious adverse effects that can arise from acupuncture, such as blood vessel and nerve injuries, infections, and complications from needle breakage.

This is why it’s important to choose an acupuncturist who is licensed and trained practitioner. They should also always use sterile, disposable needles.

Things To Consider About Acupuncture

Putting Needles In Skin

There are some things to bear in mind about acupuncture before you book your first session.

  • When considering acupuncture to treat back pain for which you don’t know the cause, remember that acupuncture won’t always get to the root of the problem as to why you’re suffering from back pain in the first place. It could help to get a diagnosis first so that your treatment, whether involving acupuncture or otherwise, can be better tailored to your needs.
  • Understand that your medical insurance might not cover the cost of acupuncture sessions. However, some do so it’s worth checking with your insurance provider.
  • It’s been said that you should get acupuncture for at least a few weeks before deciding if it’s helping you or not, as Bustle reports. If you’re hoping for one session to fix your back or neck problems, then acupuncture might not be right for you.
  • Even though it doesn’t carry many side effects, acupuncture isn’t right for you if you have a bleeding disorder or if you’re on blood-thinning medication such as warfarin.
  • When it comes to the qualifications of your acupuncturist, they should have passed an exam from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, as this is required by most U.S. states, as Consumer Reports explains. This is important to ensure that you have a safe acupuncture session, and it can also reduce your risk of unwanted reactions.

Related Questions

Does acupuncture hurt?

The idea of needles being inserted into your skin sounds painful, but the treatment is usually painless.

You might feel a slight pinch or tingling, while others have reported an achy, warm, or heavy feeling, but it’s nothing that will cause you a lot of discomforts.

How will you feel after an acupuncture session?

You will rest during the session, which tends to last around 40 minutes, and this can make you feel relaxed and even a bit tired afterward.

However, your reactions won’t be impaired so you could do things such as drive or go to work.


If you have back pain, surgery is usually a last resort.

The first line of treatment can include medication or alternative therapies.

Acupuncture is an alternative treatment that could benefit you if you’re suffering from regular back pain, and it could even form part of your treatment for acute pain.

Sometimes, the use of acupuncture and painkillers is a combination that works well to eliminate back pain, so ask your doctor about it.

However, there are some things to consider, as outlined in this article.

For example, how often you should go for acupuncture treatments and whether or not acupuncture will relieve your type of pain.

If you feel that acupuncture could be a promising line of treatment, go ahead and book a session or two. It might just be what you need to eliminate your back or neck pain for good.

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