Acupuncture for Back Pain

By Michelle Fletcher, B.A.

Acupuncture can provide long-lasting relief for lower back pain, according to a recent U.K. study.

When patients were treated with 10 sessions of acupuncture over the course of three months, they reported greatly reduced pain in the lower and mid backs. Patients were still reaping the benefits of reduced pain at a 24-month follow-up session with a physician.

The Effectiveness of Acupuncture in Treating Back Pain

Study co-author Hugh MacPherson, PhD believes that the ancient Chinese medical treatment – acupuncture – has proven its worth as an adjunct to traditional therapies for nonspecific back pain. “Acupuncture definitely has a role in the treatment of low back pain,” said MacPherson. “And it seems to be associated with longer-term effects than anyone has realized.”

The research team compared the impact of adding 10 acupuncture sessions over three months to the normal treatment for back pain, which includes physiotherapy, medication, and exercise.

The study concluded that, “Acupuncture care for patients with chronic conditions such as low back pain is likely to be a complex intervention that utilizes a number of patient-centered strategies to elicit long term therapeutic benefits.”

Comparative Studies and Global Perspectives

A Japanese study found similar findings: Results suggest that acupuncture at the most painful point gives immediate relief of low back pain. Published the same year as the U.K. study, researchers at the Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion found acupuncture to be effective in treating lower back pain.

In the U.K. and the United States, acupuncture is becoming a popular complementary for the treatment of lower back pain and a host of other ailments and injuries. Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles at specific meridians of the body, which are said to balance and realign the body’s energy.

Back pain – especially lower back pain – is one of the most common reasons people of all ages visit a doctor or health care provider. Up to 80% of the world’s population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, according to estimates in Acupuncture Today, with lower back pain being the most common location of mild to severe pain and discomfort.

Evidence is mounting that acupuncture can help people with low back pain – even going as far as to provide long-term healing for chronic back pain sufferers.


MacPherson, H., Thorpe, L., Thomas, K. “Beyond needling—therapeutic processes in acupuncture care: a qualitative study nested within a low-back pain trial.” Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine. 2006 Nov;12(9):873-80.

Inoue, M., et al. “Relief of low back pain immediately after acupuncture treatment – a randomized, placebo controlled trial.” Acupunct Med. 2006 Sept.;24(3):103-8.

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