Greater Houston Acupuncture Alliance
By Jo Nell Norcini, L.Ac.
Cypress Area Acupuncture

Acupuncture and Back Pain

A simple search on the Internet for “acupuncture and back pain” will bring up over six million hits, thus making it quite evident that there is a lot of information on the web about this subject. Even in America, where acupuncture is not the first choice for medical care, people associate acupuncture with pain relief.

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical attention. It is one of the most frequent 
causes of missed workdays and one of the most expensive conditions in the United States.  Half of all adults will experience some form of lower back pain during their lifetime. The fact that humans walk upright puts a great deal of pressure on the spine and the muscles that support it. Over time, factors such as disease, accidents, poor posture and overexertion can lead to back problems.  The most common type of back pain is muscular in nature. Pain causes the muscles to spasm, which then causes distortion in the discs, joints and nerves of the spine. The nerves can then become inflamed and cause pain to radiate down the side or the back of the leg.  This condition is what is commonly referred to as sciatica.

In most cases, people who experience an episode of acute back pain will recover in 3-12 weeks. For those 
who don't recover, however, chronic back pain can be a significant source of suffering. Acupuncture can play an important role in the reduction or elimination of back pain by reducing recovery time and preventing a chronic condition from developing. Research has shown that acupuncture helps the body to produce natural steroids, which reduce inflammation, and endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. Both substances can play an important role in reducing pain.

By reducing acute back pain, acupuncture can also help prevent chronic back pain from developing. It can 
help avoid the need for invasive surgical procedures, steroid injections and the use of dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, which can carry with them unwanted side effects and can even prolong the patient’s healing time.

If you have ever tried acupuncture for back pain and felt that it did not work for you, remember that, “not all acupuncture is created equally.” Some modalities such as physical therapy and chiropractic employ what is known as “dry needling”. Many people think that this is the same as acupuncture because the same types of needles are used.  Dry needling involves putting needles into areas of knotted muscle fibers causing the muscle to “jump” or contract due to reflex signals sent from the spinal cord. This type of treatment may provide temporary relief, but is in fact traumatic in nature and can be quite painful.

Acupuncture, provided by a licensed acupuncturist, is quite different. We are able to relieve pain by stimulating points along specific meridians; often the site of needle insertion is far away from the painful area.  Dry needling does not take into account meridian theory, which is a fundamental aspect of Chinese Medicine.  An acupuncture treatment is not only very effective at relieving back pain, it is also relaxing As with any other form of medical care, patients will respond to acupuncture at different rates.  Some people may only need one treatment while others would require 10-20 treatments.  Make sure to discuss your condition thoroughly with your acupuncturist before undergoing treatment and as always, make sure they are properly trained by visiting

JoNell Norcini specializes in pain management. She has post-graduate advanced training in Dr. Tan’s Balance Method, which is extremely effective. 

*This article was feature in "What is the “Point” of Acupuncture?"- a monthly article with the purpose of raising awareness about the benefits of integrative medicine, specifically Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).


Greater Houston Acupuncture Alliance