Acupuncture for Chronic Back Pain
Brisbane Acupuncture Clinic
A recent comparative literature review found the combination of acupuncture for chronic non-specific back pain with standard care was superior to standard care alone (McDonald & Janz, 2017).
According to the World Health Organisation, back pain is one of the most prevalent musculoskeletal conditions world wide, contributing to disability, reduced quality of life and limiting mobility (WHO, 2022). Often the first point of call is analgesics or pain relief medications, but according to the Journal of Pharmacy, recent studies have shown these may be ineffective or provide minimal benefits (Machado & Ferreira, 2017; Machado et al., 2015). Machado et al. (2016) found that NSAIDs like ibuprofen (such as Nurofen) and diclofenac (such as Voltaren) may offer only marginal relief from back pain compared to a placebo (sugar pill). Only one in six patients treated with NSAIDs achieved any significant reduction in pain (Machado et al., 2016).
In cases where back pain is not entirely relieved by standard care, acupuncture may be used as an adjunct therapy. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine sterile needles into particular acupuncture points throughout the body to help regulate the flow of 'qi' or 'energy' throughout the body. From a physiological perspective, acupuncture is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects which involve numerous mediators, receptors and signalling pathways, including ATP and adenosine, GABA and substance P (McDonald & Janz, 2017; Zhao, 2008). Acupuncture has also been demonstrated to activate a number of the body’s own opioids as well as improving the brain’s sensitivity to opioids (Harris et al., 2009).