Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has several effective modalities for treating low back pain. Chinese herbs and herbal formulas are also a very important TCM modality. In China, all of the chronic low back patients are treated with herbal formulas and acupuncture, and even the acute low back patients will often get an herbal prescription. Herbs are important because they have a very strong effect to correct internal imbalances. The reason herbs are given to chronic low back pain patients is because this kind of pain is seen as a symptom of a deeper internal imbalance. A number of TCM patterns such as Kidney deficiency, Chi or Yang deficiency, Cold Accumulation, meridian obstruction, and others will have chronic low back pain as a symptom. Ideally, acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion, and dietary modifications would be used in combination, as needed, to open blocked meridians, promote the flow of Chi and blood, and tonify the deficiencies and degeneration that can come with age and stress.
In our experience, acupuncture not only reduces pain, it also promotes the healing process by bringing a stronger flow of blood and energy (Chi) to the affected area. Because acupuncture can affect the release of endorphins in the brain, people often find that acupuncture treatments reduce stress and produce a feeling of well-being, in addition to controlling their pain. Acute neck/ low back pain: If you have just injured yourself, and come in to have an acupuncture treatment right away, you will usually see immediate results.
Chronic neck/low back pain is a different story because it takes more time and more intensive treatment to alleviate pain and promote healing. When a health problem has become entrenched over time, it takes more time to bring it under control. Generally, the longer you have had something, or the more serious it is, the longer it will take to fix it. With chronic conditions, acupuncture treatments have a cumulative effect, building on each other over time. The good part is that you can usually see positive change after several weeks of treatment. I m not saying that the condition is cured in a few weeks, but you can tell that you are responding to treatment, and that your symptoms are improving. Some people feel better after 4-5 acupuncture treatments, and some of them need 7-8 treatments before they feel better.
Let's say that you have severe back pain. Your doctor says you have at least two herniated discs, and you are scheduled for surgery in a month. At this stage, is there any point in trying acupuncture? I had a case several months ago that shows how helpful acupuncture can be. I am not saying that acupuncture is a substitute for surgery. Some people will need to have an operation to relieve severe back conditions. But most people who try acupuncture will experience improvement in pain levels and mobility, and some of them may be able to avoid surgery.