Addressing the Root cause of Back pain: part 2


In part two of this Q&A series on back pain, I answer some practical questions about coming in for treatment. If you haven’t read part one, check that out first!

What is the experience of getting acupuncture for back pain like?

When someone comes to see me for back pain, I look at all the different layers of what’s happening with that person. I’m interested in family and medical history, as well as symptoms in addition to the back pain. My approach to treating back pain is to identify the patterns where it is coming from.

All cases of back pain are different, so they require different treatments. My style of practicing acupuncture is very dynamic. I test different acupuncture points throughout the body to see how pressing them affects other areas and informs me of the patterns that are contributing to the pain. Unlike some other forms of acupuncture that select textbook points for back pain, mine looks at each person individually. 

I also talk a lot to my patients about lifestyle habits and how they might be contributing to their back pain. I like working collaboratively, where patients become self-aware enough to identify the patterns that are related to their pain. Together, we untangle the web of what’s really going on.

When should I start coming for acupuncture for my back pain?

Usually, people don’t think about coming for acupuncture until their back pain is in full effect. But if possible, I recommend coming in as soon as you start feeling tightness or discomfort. Most people, as they become more aware of their bodily patterns, are able to identify the moment when they’re headed for a flare up.

Coming regularly to acupuncture for general well-being can help keep back pain at bay. Things like insomnia, or emotional or digestive upset, can be and often are precursors to back pain. If we’re able to manage those things on an ongoing basis, we can address back pain preventively opposed to trying to fix the problem after it’s already interfering with your life.

If your back pain is alive and well right now, it’s not too late! It just means we’re starting a little further down the path. My job remains the same—to identify the

When it comes time to place the acupuncture needles, I usually start distally, meaning I place needles away from the site of pain. It’s kind of like setting a table—I use these points to open up and prepare the body before moving closer to the back pain.

underlying pattern that’s causing your back pain. Until we address that, the pain is likely to keep coming back.

How often do I need to get acupuncture for my back pain?

If you’re having acute back pain, I recommend coming twice in the first week. Then I’d suggest the same routine that I recommend for chronic back pain: Come once a week while the back pain is still resolving, and eventually move to every other week for maintenance until it feels like the problem is completely gone.

How long it takes for the problem to disappear is largely dependent on lifestyle. My patients who are committed to making big changes toward healthier, more balanced lifestyles are usually able to move to a once-a-month maintenance mode program pretty quickly. These changes include altering exercise routines that aren’t serving you, cleaning up your diet, getting enough sleep, shifting your mindset toward positivity and gratitude, and allocating time for meditation or another mindfulness practice that helps you develop a stronger mind-body connection.

What are the long-term benefits of choosing acupuncture over something like pain pills to treat back pain?

Pharmaceuticals are a short-term solution to back pain. They are quick fixes that don’t address the underlying problem that’s causing your back pain in the first place. Unfortunately, while we wait for insurance companies to catch up to the widespread demand for acupuncture, many people are forced to pay more for acupuncture than drugs. But when we rely solely on health insurance or other external factors to determine the best health solutions for us, we hand over our power. Acupuncture is an investment in yourself. It is a collaborative approach to figuring out your unique big-picture health needs so that you can thrive physically and emotionally over the long-term without dependency.

Did you read part one of this Q&A series on back pain? Find it here.