Home Health & Wellness How Acupuncture Is Revolutionising the Treatment of Chronic Back Pain

How Acupuncture Is Revolutionising the Treatment of Chronic Back Pain

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Many complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), such as acupuncture, are commonly used for pain relief. CAM is defined as a diagnosis, treatment, and prevention that complements mainstream medicines by contributing to a common whole, satisfying a demand not met by orthodoxy, or diversifying the conceptual framework of medicine. Acupuncture is recommended to assist with pain relief. Research has provided evidence suggesting acupuncture has more significant effects than placebos. NICE guidelines have accepted acupuncture as an effective treatment for chronic back pain, and their evidence is compelling. In the UK, over “1.1 million people” suffer from back pain; NICE estimates the cost to the NHS for treatment of back pain is £1 billion a year. Chronic back pain can be caused by an injury or illness, such as sciatica and slipped discs.  

The NHS needs to provide an alternative or complementary therapy to reduce the cost of treating back pain. Acupuncture is recommended for this purpose as it is cost-effective compared to medication. Witt et al. support using acupuncture for back pain to reduce the cost for the NHS. Acupuncture is now one of the leading complementary therapies for relieving pain. Many people suffering from back pain often use alternative approaches, such as acupuncture, for treatment instead of medication. 

There are physiological and psychological explanations for why acupuncture can treat chronic pain by modifying the pain transmissions through the spiral cord. Acupuncture connects the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels. Therefore, physical improvements may show if the person is experiencing physiological issues. It provides an anti-inflammatory reaction, relaxing the body and improving the immune system. It releases pain-relieving substances known as endorphins into the body, allowing the patient to experience non-medical pain relief. There are many benefits to using acupuncture for back pain. These include improving muscle mobility and stiffness, allowing the individual to recover quicker. Clinical evidence has been published documenting the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating back pain.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises acupuncture’s ability to treat over 43 common disorders, including constipation, indigestion, insomnia, and anxiety. Other healthcare sectors use acupuncture, benefiting their patients. Acupuncture has been used to treat and/or assist with many health issues, including vomiting and abdomen pain. It is one of the most popular therapies in Western countries. 

Chronic pain and depression are the most common health problems in the UK. These can be linked together to chronic back pain resulting in lack of sleep, difficulty in movement, isolation, and an inability to work. It suggests that acupuncture is an effective anti-depressant medication for controlling depression. Research supports the theory of acupuncture being as effective, if not more so, than antidepressants. Another study also supports the use of acupuncture in depression, as the trials suggested that along with anti-depression medication, patients responded better. The study shows fewer side effects from their anti-depressant medication.

A 2005 study reviewed acupuncture for cancer-related nausea and vomiting and concluded that the patients benefited from the complementary therapy. It provided a protective effect and reduced vomiting, which was also shown in acupuncture detoxification. Acupuncture detoxification has become a modern technique used for addiction. It is used to de-stress people with a substance use disorder and assist in the drug withdrawal process by reducing anxiety, sickness and sleeping disorders. In cancer care, acupuncture is also used to manage symptoms, side effects of medicalised treatments, and shock. 

It has become increasingly used for antenatal problems, including infertility caused by hereditary weakness. Acupuncture strengthens the kidney’s balance and energy as it nourishes the foetus and supports the uterus throughout the pregnancy. Acupuncture increases the flow of Qi and assists in preparing the body for both conception and pregnancy. It raises prostaglandins, white blood count, gamma, and overall antibody levels. It is only recommended in late pregnancy to assist in fighting infections that could harm the mother or baby. 

There are different ways acupuncture can be offered and developed in mainstream health services. The NHS is limited in funding, and patients are advised to attend private treatments, which can cost from £35–£60 per session. In this process, the doctor may suggest it as an alternative therapy to assist with the patients’ illnesses. Acupuncture can be incorporated into mainstream health services with a holistic approach to nursing. A holistic approach to nursing defines health as a “state or process in which the individuals experience a sense of well-being, harmony, and unity such that subjective experiences“. The holistic approach considers the patient’s health, beliefs, and values. Nursing provides holistic care, which allows nurses to advise their patients on complementary or alternative theories.

Acupuncture stimulates special points on the body, and fine needles flow Qi energy through the body, improving the patient’s health. It is a complementary theory that involves needles penetrating the skin to treat health conditions. It has been found to assist with back pain, asthma, and nausea treatments. Placing the needles in a specific area stimulates the body to process healing and stimulates the nerves. This releases endorphins, making the patient feel less pain. The goal of acupuncture is to reduce pain or symptoms for the patient using a complementary theory. The goal is to relieve chronic back pain for sufferers using acupuncture instead of mainstream medication. Offering acupuncture as an alternative will give patients the option to use medication or a theory. 




Natalie Quinn-Walker is a lecturer in public health and deputy course lead at Birmingham City South Campus – Seacole.

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