Low back pain is a very common occurrence that affects many people at some point in their lives. According to the Low Back Pain Fact Sheet of NINDS (1) (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) nearly everyone has low back pain sometime. Men and women are equally affected. It occurs most often between ages 30 and 50, due in part to the aging process but also as a result of sedentary life styles with too little (sometimes punctuated by too much) exercise. The risk of experiencing low back pain from disc disease or spinal degeneration increases with age.

Conditions that may cause low back pain and require treatment by a physician or other health specialist include:

  • Bulging disc (also called protruding, herniated, or ruptured disc,
  • Sciatica,
  • Spinal degeneration from disc wear and tear,
  • Spinal stenosis,
  • Osteoporosis,
  • Fracture in the spine and hips,
  • Skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis, a curving of the spine to the side; kyphosis, in which the normal curve of the upper back is severely rounded; lordosis, an abnormally accentuated arch in the lower back; back extension, a bending backward of the spine; and back flexion, in which the spine bends forward,
  • Fibromyalgia,
  • Spondylitis, and
  • Other painful inflammations in the lower back including osteomyelitis (infection in the bones of the spine) and sacroiliitis(inflammation in the sacroiliac joints).

Most low back pain can be treated without surgery. Treatment involves using analgesics, reducing inflammation, restoring proper function and strength to the back, and preventing recurrence of the injury. Most patients with back pain recover without residual functional loss. In addition to medications bed rest and exercise are effective for low back pain.

Acupuncture triggers the release of naturally occurring painkilling molecules called peptides and keeps the body’s normal flow of energy unblocked. Clinical studies are measuring the effectiveness of acupuncture in comparison to more conventional procedures in the treatment of acute low back pain.

In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, acupuncture or simulated acupuncture treatments fared better than usual care in managing low back pain. However, neither tailoring acupuncture needle sites to the individual nor penetrating the skin appeared to be essential for receiving therapeutic benefit. These results are of importance to patients and practitioners seeking a relatively safe and effective treatment for back pain. According to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey, 17.1 percent of American adults who used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) reported using it for back pain, making back pain the leading reason for CAM use. The same survey found that more than 3 million adults used acupuncture, a CAM treatment used for back pain (2).

  • A 2012 analysis of data on participants in acupuncture studies looked at back and neck pain together and found that actual acupuncture was more helpful than either no acupuncture or simulated acupuncture.
  • A 2010 review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that acupuncture relieved low-back pain immediately after treatment but not over longer periods of time.
  • A 2008 systematic review of studies on acupuncture for low-back pain found strong evidence that combining acupuncture with usual care helps more than usual care alone. The same review also found strong evidence that there is no difference between the effects of actual and simulated acupuncture in people with low-back pain.
  • Clinical practice guidelines issued by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians in 2007 recommend acupuncture as one of several nondrug approaches physicians should consider when patients with chronic low-back pain do not respond to self-care (practices that people can do by themselves, such as remaining active, applying heat, and taking pain-relieving medications).


In Dr. Xie’s Acupuncture Clinic, a comprehensive program including acupuncture, cupping, Tui Na body work, acupressure, exercise and Chinese herbal medicine is used to treat patients with low back pain. The program is effective in reducing pain, restoring the proper function and strength to the back and preventing recurrence of low back pain. Please contact Dr. Xie (Dr. J) at (847) 630-8798 for details.

Additional Resources

  1. Low Back Pain  (NINDS)
  2. Acupuncture for Chronic Low Back Pain (NIH NCCAM)
  3. Acupuncture-Like Treatments Improve Outcomes Compared to Usual Care for Low Back Pain (05/11/09)
  4. Acupuncture for Pain
  5. Back Pain  (NIAMS)
  6. Back Pain  (NLM)