Learn how acupuncture, herbs and diet can reduce pain and inflammation
Back pain is the most common form of pain that people seek medical assistance for and approximately one in six people suffer with back pain in the UK and Ireland.
Acupuncture is highly effective for back pain and many people see a significant improvement in their back pain after a few acupuncture sessions.
Learn how acupuncture for back pain works and other ways to relieve pain and inflammation naturally.
What causes back pain?
Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong in the body. The sensation of pain is triggered by the nervous system when there is tissue or nerve damage, an illness or trauma. It can also occur due to social and psychological factors such as anxiety, fear or feelings of loss.
The main causes of back pain include:
- Muscle tightness or spasms.
- Poor posture, excessive sitting or slouching.
- Chronic stress which can cause back and neck muscle tension and inflammation in spinal joints.
- Heavy lifting or sudden awkward movements that compromise the back.
- An accident or injury that causes trauma to the back.
- Degeneration of joints and bones (arthritis) and disc issues.
- Structural problems such as scoliosis.
How does acupuncture relieve back pain?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lower back area is strongly influenced by the bladder and kidney channels and any imbalance or blockage of energy in these meridians can cause issues in the back. Meridians are energetic pathways that allow energy (qi “chi”) to flow through the body to different organs to keep them functioning optimally. When there is a blockage of energy in a meridian, disease or illness can occur.
Acupuncture works by placing very small, thin needles along specific acupuncture points on the lower back, feet, hands, hip, back of knees and stomach to restore balance and energy. For pain in the upper back, an acupuncturist will place the needles on the upper back, head, neck and shoulders.
By stimulating these acupuncture points, muscles relax and the nervous system triggers chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) to release endorphins which are pain-relieving chemicals that naturally occur in the body. These chemicals have similar properties to opioid pain relievers.
Acupuncture can reduce inflammation and promote tissue repair by regulating the hormone that controls inflammation (cortisol) and the cells that secret collagen (fibroblasts) to heal tissues.
Acupuncture also helps the body adapt to stress more efficiently by modulating stress hormones (cortisol, noradrenaline and serotonin), relaxing the nervous system and initiating the relaxation response. In doing so, this modifies the pain signals sent from the brain to the body so that the level of pain felt is reduced. When you’re stressed, your pain threshold lowers and you can respond to pain more acutely.
Natural ways to relieve back pain
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet that is rich in organic, fresh fruit and vegetables (especially leafy greens) and anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, garlic, turmeric, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds and healthy fats such as avocado and flaxseed oil.
- Avoid inflammatory foods and drinks including sugar, refined carbohydrates (pasta, bread, pizza, pastries, pies), gluten, pasteurised dairy, meat, junk food, fried foods and damaged oils (margarine, rapeseed oil), coffee, alcohol and fizzy drinks/ shop-bought juices.
- Increase your intake of magnesium through diet and supplementation. Magnesium is an important mineral for relaxing muscles, preventing muscle cramps, reducing stress and anxiety, keeping bones healthy and increasing energy levels. Foods that are high in magnesium include leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, rocket), almonds, cashews, avocado, figs, chickpeas, quinoa, kidney beans and black beans. Learn more about the benefits of taking magnesium.
- Take regular Epsom salt baths to relax muscles and reduce inflammation. Run a warm bath and add two cups of Epsom salts; soak in the bath for at least 15 minutes.
- Move regularly and do daily stretching, especially if you’re sitting at a desk all day. Listen to CNM’s podcast on how to exercise properly.
- Get your desk set up ergonomically and make sure you have an office chair with good back support. Don’t underestimate how much posture and a poorly set-up desk configuration can affect your back and neck.
- Stay hydrated by drinking filtered water and herbal teas. Dehydration can contribute to back pain as muscles and joints need water to stay healthy and nourished.
- Check your vitamin D levels as there is a link between low vitamin D and chronic pain. Vitamin D can reduce inflammation and is essential for maintaining bone and muscle health. Learn more about why vitamin D is important.
- Herbs like Boswelia, Turmeric, Willow bark and Ginger are excellent for reducing pain and inflammation in the body. You can take herbs as a liquid tincture, capsules, tablets or a tea. Consult with a qualified herbalist who can recommend the best herbs and dosage for your needs.
Support your back health
Acupuncture is safe and effective modality for relieving back pain and restoring balance in the body. It relaxes tense muscles, reduces stress, lowers inflammation and promotes tissue healing. Ensure you eat an anti-inflammatory diet, top up your magnesium levels, do daily stretching and improve your posture by sitting straight and setting your desk up ergonomically.