Acupuncture for Back Pain

As an athlete, you train and condition your body to perform at its maximum ability but there are times when the body cries out in pain, either because of injury or overuse. Pain can hinder your ability to perform, and it’s especially important to seek help for back pain.

Treatment options for back pain vary, depending on the cause of the pain. Options range from conservative treatments like rest and ice to the most aggressive approach of surgery. In addition to conventional treatment options such as medication and physical therapy, acupuncture is gaining in popularity. It can be used as a stand-alone therapy or could be considered as an additional treatment in a multidisciplinary approach to managing back pain.

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to address many conditions in the body, especially pain. Modern medicine has begun looking more seriously at the ability of acupuncture to manage back pain. Data from one of the largest clinical trials performed in Germany was published in 2007. This study assessed more than 1,000 patients suffering from chronic low back pain and found that acupuncture improved low back pain for up to six months–twice the amount of time of conventional therapy.

A 2010 report in The Spine Journal did a systematic review of all of the clinical practice guidelines (the standard set of recommendations put forth by the medical community) for managing low back pain. The authors concluded that acupuncture should be included among treatment options to help manage low back pain–especially chronic low back pain. Additionally, acupuncture has received worldwide attention with the endorsement of its use for back pain management by the World Health Organization.

Patients receiving regular acupuncture treatments report little to no side effects that may be caused by medications. In fact, quite the opposite happens. Patients report “side benefits” from acupuncture such as improved mood, sleep and overall quality of life.

For the athlete, acupuncture and its many side benefits can translate into less pain, quicker rehabilitation and overall improvement in athletic performance!

Jamie Starkey, LAc, is Lead Acupuncturist at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine which offers acupuncture with a focus on sports-related injuries, women’s health, oncology, acute/chronic pain management, stress-related disorders and acupuncture clinical research.

”I take great pride in being a clinician of Traditional Chinese Medicine,” says Starkey. “I strive to help patients discover the ability their body has to heal itself when properly supported and brought back into a balanced state of health and wellness.”

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