Acupuncture for Spinal Pain

Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese system of care, can be effective in treating:

It is safe, drug-free and rarely causes complications. Acupuncture is based on the idea that if the body is stimulated at specific points, it sends messages to the brain to release chemicals that help block pain. In addition, the stimulation is said to unblock the body's natural flow of energy.

Many of the nearly 1,000 acupuncture points (acu-points) in the body are near nerves. The chemicals released by the brain and spinal cord after being stimulated by acupuncture include endorphins (a morphine-like chemical our bodies produce naturally) and other neurotransmitters (chemicals that modify nerve impulses). These chemicals block the message of pain that is being sent to the brain.

During acupuncture, a doctor uses hair-thin metal needles. The needles, which come sterilized and pre-packaged, are tapped into the body at various depths. The placement is carefully determined based on the doctor's knowledge of acu-points and the specific condition being treated.

You may feel a slight prick when the needle is put in. However, the needles are much thinner than those used for an injection or blood test, so the feeling is much milder.

The needles stay in place up to 20 minutes. They may be twirled, energized with electricity or warmed to increase the effect of treatment. When electricity is applied, you may feel tingling. If this gets too strong, you can ask your doctor or nurse to lower the amount of electricity.

You may need more than one session. Your doctor will use different combinations of points, different needle techniques or both to stimulate new sources of healing. You should try acupuncture for five to 10 treatments before deciding whether it is effective for you.

If you have chronic pain or a serious illness, you should consider acupuncture as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, other medical treatments (such as physical therapy or medications).