Acupuncture for Back Pain

Many people ask about acupuncture for back pain. Yes, acupuncture can help relieve back pain!

Types of Back Pain

Back pain occurs in two types: acute and chronic. The former occurs in response to trauma, such as strain or sprain of lumbar muscles due to incorrect movement when lifting something. The latter persists for months or years, and may arise from acute injury, postural issues, or internal organ disorders.


Acupuncture often works very well for relief of acute lumbar strain. It works best if you get acupuncture for back pain due to acute injury as soon as possible, within 24 hours of the injury.

In Chinese medicine, we have a saying: pain means no flow, flow means no pain. Acute strain or sprain of a muscle or joint causes the body to reflexively tense in an position that minimizes pain. The tension results in a restriction of blood flow to an from the injured area; this results in accumulation of metabolic wastes and deficiency of nutrition to the injured tissues.

Acupuncture for back pain due to injury focuses on releasing the tension, reducing inflammation, and increasing blood flow through the injured area.

Acute injury also benefits from use of herbal medicines that relieve pain and inflammation. I use internal herbs and external plasters when appropriate.

Prompt treatment often provides some immediate relief. I have seen patients go from rating their pain at 9/10 at the beginning of a treatment, to 5/10 by the end of a treatment. With acute injuries I generally recommend getting treatment every other day until the pain level goes below 5/10. Usually this takes about 1 week or less if you get frequent treatments.


Chronic back or neck pain indicates either chronic muscle weakness or imbalances or internal organ issues.

Chronic muscle weakness arises from insufficient high intensity exercise for the lumbar and abdominal musculature. I recommend regular strength training to maintain the strength of these muscles throughout life.

However, strength training can exacerbate lumbar pain due to chronic muscle imbalances. Therefore, before engaging in a strength training program, you should have your body checked for muscle imbalances, either by appointment with me or do it yourself by getting Pete Egoscue's book, Pain Free.

Chronic muscle imbalances arise from poor posture, repetitive dysfunctional movement patterns, or compensations due to repeated injuries. Acupuncture will help relieve the tension, pain, and inflammation, and I recommend the Egoscue method for long-term relief.

Acupuncture for Herniated Disk

For herniated disk, I recommend getting acupuncture for back pain, and we use herbal medicines and functional nutrition supplements to relieve inflammation and support healing of the damaged disk.

Internal Organs and Back Pain

Chinese medicine recognizes that chronic low grade back pain can arise from internal organ issues. Specifically, chronic mild lumbar pain may indicate one of several issues, including:

• Deficiency of kidney yin: lumbar pain accompanied by weak knees and legs, hot flashes, night sweats, thirst for warm beverages, dry membranes.

• Deficiency of kidney yang: lumbar pain accompanied by feeling cold, cold feet, sensitive to cold environments, no thirst, frequent or nocturnal urination, low libido.

• Damp-cold or damp-heat painful obstruction of urinary bladder channel.

Chronic back and neck pain issues require longer treatment than acute issues. I prefer to treat these with a combination of herbal therapy and acupuncture. As noted above, diet is a key therapy for chronic back pain. 


Science Daily reports on a study that found that acupuncture may treat low back pain more effectively than conventional therapy.

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