Acupuncture is a Chinese medical treatment involving insertion of ultra-fine needles into specific areas of the body, called acupuncture points. Acupuncture is practised by Chinese medicine practitioners, who diagnose and treat according to theories of Chinese medicine.
What to expect
A full history and examination is required to exclude serious causes of low back pain (LBP). Your Chinese medicine practitioner may ask about your energy levels, sleep quality,or pain in other areas of the body. Acupuncturists usually palpate for tender points, which may then be needled. They also assess the colour, coating and shape of the tongue, and character of your radial pulse. Typically, treatments are individualised, and relevant acupuncture points are selected according to the Chinese medicine diagnosis.
Acupuncture may be used as an adjunct or alternative to other treatments such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or physiotherapy. Treatments usually last 45 minutes to 1 hour and the acupuncture points may be combined with electrical stimulation of the needles (electro-acupuncture), or heat treatment.
Chronic lower back pain treatment
About 1 in 3 people have chronic back pain, that is back pain lasting for more than 3 months. Acupuncture treatment for chronic lower back pain may include 1–20 treatments. In clinical practice, patients will usually have a course of treatment and then return again if pain comes back.
Acupuncture has the advantage of being a safe treatment when practiced by a trained professional; 90% of patients do not experience any adverse events. Common adverse events include bruising, soreness, tiredness, fainting or drowsiness. Serious adverse events such as pneumothorax are extremely rare.
Modified article from Dr Carolyn Ee Australian Family Physician Vol. 43, No. 5. 2014
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