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Acupuncture for Back Pain

Acupuncture is a complementary therapy that was developed by the Chinese almost 5,000 years ago. It means when needles are inserted into the skin at specific points.

How does it Work?

Acupuncture was highly regarded as an effective therapy by the ancient Chinese, as they believed that by inserting needles into the skin, the needle point unblocked pathways called ‘meridians’, these pathways channel the natural energy of the body and when the pathways become blocked they cause pain.

Medical practitioners believe that by inserting needles into the skin, the puncture point stimulates neurological processes which trigger the release of chemicals from the brain and spinal cord, which help in the reduction of pain.

Although 2% of the population of the United Kingdom use acupuncture annually, the results of how efficient it is have been found to be quite uncertain. This makes its scientific quality extremely difficult to measure, therefore difficult to recommend as a treatment. There are many variables to remember when trying to measure the success of a treatment.

The patient’s expectations of it working, the incidence of needle-phobia, and the levels of pain experienced by patients and the availability of tools available for measuring pain.

There have been findings that show acupuncture can help to reduce pain and allow periods of increased physical activity for up to three months for those people who suffer from chronic back pain.

For these patients, it is a very cost-effective treatment as it is a pretty fast, straightforward and inexpensive procedure which also lessens the need for other painkilling treatments.

There is however, no sign of it being a successful treatment for those suffering from acute back pain. In any condition, acupuncture only treats the symptoms of back pain, not the underlying cause.


The same risks apply to all needles, all equipment should be for single-patient use, always kept in sterile packaging and used in a controlled and sterile field so as to reduce the risks of hepatitis, HIV and other infections.

As long as this standard is met, it is quite a safe treatment, with other less serious side-effects such as dizziness and nausea. Make sure that you are well supported and cannot fall when receiving acupuncture.

Who Performs Acupuncture?

Sadly there is no governing body or government legislation concerning the practice of acupuncture, which means anyone can set themselves up as an acupuncturist without having to complete any training. Not only is this unsafe, serious diseases such as cancer could also go undiagnosed and there are no guidelines on price or whether the equipment will be of a high and sterile condition.

Always check the qualifications of your practitioner and ask for references. It is possibly for the best to avoid practitioners who advertise in local papers, on leaflets or at fairs and exhibitions as these may be unlikely to have any medical knowledge.

The safest option is to ask for a recommendation from your GP, there may be an acupuncturist who may actually be able to perform the treatment in the surgery.

The British Acupuncture Council, although it is not an official body, it has 1,700 members and speaks in favour for the completion of a thorough training programme and is working with the British Medical Association into making acupuncture available to all patients and in every clinic; at the moment it is offered in 85% of pain clinics.


With acupuncture becoming more and more available within the NHS, the need to seek private consultation is lessening. If a sufferer does decide on private treatment, costs vary for each patient as multiple sessions are usually required, which last from just a few sessions to a treatment plan that continues over several weeks.

A typical session normally costs around £30-£40, though a medical physician may be able to charge a higher fee than a non-medical acupuncturist.

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