For every operation I’ve had, I’ve encountered an unforeseen complication like numbness in my foot or inflammation around scar tissue. For every pill there’s been some side effect especially pain medication that alters digestion and forces my liver to work much harder than it should. For every therapy there’s been some muscle soreness or overstretched ligaments. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best I can hope for are back pain remedies that keep most biological systems in check, and that’s how I came to acupuncture.
Like many of the Eastern medical practices, acupuncture, a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, works to keep the body’s elements in balance through careful manipulation of pressure points. The goal is to keep the mind and body in a state of ‘chi’ whereby energies exist in a state of rhythmic harmony.
On the recommendation of a Naturopath 6 years ago, I began acupuncture to treat not just chronic back pain but insomnia most likely caused by my knotted-up spine. I was told that the first rule of acupuncture club is that you believe in acupuncture club and thereby trust that your pain can be regulated by the body. In a recent study by Dr. Felicity Bishop, patients “experienced less disability over the course of treatment when they came to see their back pain as more controllable, when they felt they had better understanding of their back pain, when they felt better able to cope with it, were less emotional about it, and when they felt their back pain was going to have less of an impact on their lives.”
In all honesty, I don’t care all that much for scientific evidence when it comes to holistic medicine. It either works or it doesn’t. Even if there’s some psychosomatic reason for improved health, I’ll take it.
After 30 treatments over 3 years, I can say with complete honesty, acupuncture works most of the time. The reason I say ‘most’ is that I’ve had to bounce between 3 different acupuncturists as each one has had their own methodology for pressure point placement along the body’s meridians. With the right combination of needles, length of time inserted, certain pain receptors seem to get blocked bringing immediate relief. There’s been days that I’ve forgotten that I’ve been treated and couldn’t understand why my pain had gone away which proves to me that it’s more than just mind over matter.
However, If you’re looking for research based evidence that acupuncture can relieve symptoms caused by herniated discs, this recent study: Efficacy of Acupressure Plus Manipulation for Lumbar Disc Herniation points out that a combination of acupressure and manual stimulation can reduce pain considerably. “The clinical criterion for the efficacy of osteopathy plus acupressure adopted for the study was 100% remission of low back pain and sciatica symptoms. The vast majority of patients (26 out of 35 patients) reached this criterion. Of the 9 patients who failed therapy, 8 patients felt less pain and 1 patient reported feeling no change”.
Trading a few needle pricks for weeks of comfort is one I’m always happy to make so that I can return to some semblance of balance.