Back pain is the number one reason for physician visits after the common cold. We will all experience back pain at one time or another. It is commonly thought that the spine is the most vulnerable part of the back. Contrary to that popular belief, the spine is not fragile. In fact, it is strong and resilient and has the ability to heal and adapt to mechanical failure. It may experience significant degenerative changes and injuries without the experience of pain. Of course there are those rare occasions when structural problems cause pain but for the most part the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the spine are the real culprits.
Muscles and connective tissue help support the spine, hold it upright, and control movement during rest and activity. Often pain is directly caused from tendinomuscular sprains or strains. If ignored for long enough this shortening of the muscles or laxities of the ligaments will lead to degenerative changes such as arthritis, herniated disk or spondylolisthesis. Treating the underlying problem is essential for long-term relief.
Acupuncture, which strengthens connective tissue, releases endorphins and facilitates muscular relaxation, has been proven in many studies (see below) to be a valuable therapy for the treatment of back pain. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially recognized acupuncture as an effective treatment for treating back pain.
Acupuncture can stop the frustrating cycle of muscle spasms, pain and eventually loss of function by increasing circulation to the muscles and prompting the body to heal itself. Even in chronic conditions acupuncture can mobilize the body intrinsic healing abilities.
The diagrams below illustrate how muscular reaction patterns can lead to different types of back pain depending on the referral pattern of the affected musculature. Acupuncture points (trigger points) are marked “X” and are some of the most effective points to treat the associated referral pain often seen