Research Review: Acupuncture for Back Pain

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Dr. Tatyana's Health and Wellness Blog

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Research Review: Acupuncture for Back Pain
Written By: Dr. Tatyana ~ 3/6/2023

BLOGPOST_AcupunctureBackPain03062023.jpgBack pain is one of the most expensive and exhausting ailments of our time. It’s the 6th most costly condition in the United States, costing Americans at least 50 billion in health care costs each year (let alone the cost of missed work due to disability). 1It is the third most common reason for a visit to the doctors office (behind skin disorders and osteo-arthritis joint issues)2. For Acupuncturists, it is the #1 reason people show up at their door.3

So does it really work? For those that turn to acupuncture, they can rest assured they are increasing their odds of finding relief. Acupuncture has been found to be effective for chronic pain, including low back pain. Not only is acupuncture more clinically effective than no treatment at short-term follow-ups that looked at measures of pain relief and functional improvement 4acupuncture was actually found to be substantially better than standard care in a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that included around 20,000 patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.5

Acupuncture is also safe. In a cumulative review of more than 1 million acupuncture treatments, the risk of a serious adverse event with acupuncture was estimated to be 0.05 per 10,000 treatments and 0.55 per 10,000 individual patients. Most common side effects were minor, and included bleeding at the needle site and localized needling pain.6

So how does sticking needles in the various points in the body actually help to alleviate back pain? The explanation according to Acupuncture theory involves the movement of stuck energy (qi) and blood in the body. Points along various energy channels are used to open pathways and redirect ‘traffic’ to promote a healthy flow of qi and blood. Western biomedical research looks at acupuncture effects on the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. It has been shown that the stimulation with acupuncture needles produces an analgesic effect through the release of endorphins , dopamine, endogenous cannabinoids (some of the body’s natural pain-killers) and anti-inflammatory substances as well as the inhibition of pro-inflammatory factors.7

And does it last? The beneficial effects of acupuncture do, in fact. persist beyond the course of treatment. In a meta-analysis of around 18,000 patients with chronic pain, 90% of the pain-relieving effects were maintained at 1 year out.8

As far as cost-effectiveness, acupuncture scores again. In one study in Canada, low back pain patients divided into 2 groups (201 patients receiving acupuncture and 804 patients not receiving acupuncture) were evaluated for the number of medical doctor visits required for treatment of their low back pain. The acupuncture patients saw their doctors 49% less after having acupuncture compared with the year prior to having acupuncture. Non-acupuncture patients had a decrease of only 2%.9 The WHO officially classifies acupuncture as a cost-effective treatment strategy in patients with chronic low back pain, according to their cost-effectiveness threshold values.10

Back pain, as many of us have experienced, can be an expensive threat to our quality of life. Depending on the cause and severity of the back pain, acupuncture can be a safe and cost-effective alternative or complementary approach to treatment, providing much needed relief!

If you are one of the many people suffering with back pain, don’t hesitate to get in for some pain-relieving acupuncture sessions. The sooner you get in, the sooner you’ll experience the benefits!


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Enjoying naps
Written By: Dr. Tatyana ~ 2/6/2023


Most mammals are polyphasic sleepers, meaning that they sleep for short periods throughout the day. For humans, days are divided into two distinct periods, one for sleep and one for wakefulness, which is a monophasic sleep pattern. However, this may be a product of living in an industrialized world and not the natural sleep pattern of humans.

Our bodies are programmed for two periods of intense sleepiness a day: between 2 and 4 am and 1 and 3 pm. Unfortunately, despite our biological vestige, we are having to consolidate our sleep into one long period. A short 20-minute midday nap boosts mental alertness, mood, productivity and sharpens motor skills. There is also solid scientific evidence that napping lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, excessive weight gain and diabetes as well as reducing stress. Naps up to 45 minutes can sometimes include REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which enhances creative thinking and sensory processing. If you need to spring into action upon waking, keep your nap below 45 minutes.

Tips for Getting the Perfect Nap

  • First off, get over the stigma that you are being lazy for taking a nap. Recognize that napping will make you more productive and more alert after you wake up. Napping isn’t for the lazy or depressed.

Best time for naps between 1-2pm

  • Avoid consuming large quantities of foods that are heavy in fat, sugar, or caffeine, which can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Instead, choose foods high in calcium and protein, which promote sleep.

  • Find a quiet place where passersby and phones won’t disturb you, preferably where you can lie down. It takes about 50% longer to fall asleep sitting upright.

  • Darkness stimulates melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Try to darken your room or wear an eyeshade.

  • Body temperature drops when you fall asleep. Raise the room temperature or use a blanket.

  • Set your alarm for the desired duration to prevent oversleeping. Keep you naps between 30-45 minutes.

Notes on the Negative Effects of Napping

Napping isn’t always the best option for everyone despite its benefits. Naps that last more than 20 minutes can leave people with sleep inertia, a feeling of disorientation and grogginess that lasts for half an hour or more. Especially for those who are sleep deprived, post-nap impairment and disorientation can be more severe.

Another downside of daytime napping is that it may have a negative effect on other sleeping periods. A nap longer than 45 minutes or taken too late in the day may adversely affect the length and quality of nighttime sleep. If you usually have trouble sleeping at night, a nap may only aggravate this problem.

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Why I feel tired and sleepy?
Written By: Dr. Tatyana ~ 1/23/2023


During the winter, it is natural to feel a little sleepier, slower, and possibly less motivated. It’s the season of stillness and conservation. We can say it is a period of hibernation and our time to rest, slow down and revitalize our reserves. Winter is a great time of year to reflect on our health, replenish our energy, conserve our strength, and heal on a deeper level.

According to the traditional theories of the Five Elements of nature, Water is the element that is associated with Winter and with the Kidneys, Bladder and Adrenal Glands. Our Kidneys are extremely important organs that have various functions–the main one is that they store our inherited constitution, also known as our Source Energy or Jing Qi. Consider it your body’s internal battery.

According to Chinese Medicine, our internal Kidney batteries are powered up with a supply of energy that will carry and sustain each of us throughout our lives. This power supply is imparted to us from our parents and provides us with the energy for all our bodily functions.

It is believed that every action we take depletes energy from this power supply. Some people quickly deplete their Jing Qi; others preserve it. Jing Qi is finite, so if not protected, it will be easily wasted and eventually, when it becomes depleted, various symptoms and signs may appear.

During the winter, it is important to conserve our battery reserves. Our bodies are instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter–rest, reflection, conservation, and storage. The “downtime” that winter provides, gives us an opportunity to slow down, check in, take account as to how our lifestyle supports or detracts from our health, and to recharge our battery.

As for getting some exercise, it is always healthy to get some form of it daily, but during the winter months, it is best to participate in gentler, less exerting exercise, such as, yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, swimming, walking, and other low impact sports. Save the extreme exertion activities for the spring and summer months. In the sidebar to the right are a few easy pointers on how you can support and promote your own health this time of year.

Easy Pointers for Your Health

  1. Sleep. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise. Go to bed early and if possible, wake up after the sun appears in the morning. Extra sleep will also benefit you if feel as though you are coming down with something. If you do become ill, naps may help you recover faster.

  2. “D” it. Check your level of vit D.

  3. Surround yourself with friends and family. If you can gather around a fire, all the merrier.

  4. Water, water everywhere. Drink water. Every cell of your body requires this liquid gold to keep it lubricated and running smoothly.

  5. Avoid the consumption of ice cream and iced beverages. If possible, drink liquids at room temperature. Too many colds foods, especially during the colder months, can disrupt your digestion.

  6. Stress. Try to avoid it as much as possible. If you can’t, adopt habits that will enable you to de-stress, such as meditation, yoga, dance, reading, acupuncture, or painting.

  7. Exercise. You have heard it a thousand times, exercise, exercise, exercise. There is no substitute for the health-promoting benefits of this easy task. Get up to 20 minutes of heart pumping exercise daily.

  8. Take herbs that support the immune function. Astragalus, Osha root, Reishi and Shitake mushrooms are helpful. These have been used for thousands of years by acupuncturists to keep people healthy and strong.

  9. Come in for acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture works extremely well to help overcome fatigue and make feel you happy!

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