In clinical trials, acupuncture outperforms NSAIDs for long-term relief from chronic non-specific low back pain and sciatica.
Most back pain is caused by muscle tension, strains, minor injuries, and irritated or pinched nerves - which acupuncture treats by killing pain, reducing inflammation and improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility.
Many patients have treatment for help with chronic pain that affects their quality of life. NICE recognises how effective acupuncture can be and recommends it for chronic pain.
Chronic pain often results from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, low back, shoulder and neck pain, headaches and migraines, cancer, fibromyalgia, sciatica, trigeminal neuralgia, post herpetic neuralgia, tendonitis, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis and endometriosis.
Acupuncture reduces inflammation in a similar way to how it eases pain, by stimulating the body to release natural chemicals called immunomodulatory and vascular factors.
Muscle stiffness and joint mobility
Acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medical techniques improve blood circulation in the tiny blood vessels that nourish muscles and joints.
This reduces swelling and bruising and helps muscles to relax, joints to move more easily, and injuries to heal more effectively.
The science bit
Scientific studies show that acupuncture helps sports injuries by
stimulating the release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors
changing the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord
delivering analgesia via alpha-adrenoceptor mechanisms
increasing the release of adenosine
modulating the limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network
reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation