Nearly 10 percent of all adults in the United States—about 16 million people—experience chronic back pain. If you happen to be one of them, you may be open to any type of treatment that could provide relief, especially if you’re not responding well to initial treatment efforts. A new study suggests acupressure, a not-so-new technique used in traditional Chinese medicine, may be a welcome source of relief for people with chronic back pain. Here’s what you need to know about the findings and using acupressure to treat chronic back pain.
Acupressure is a technique similar to acupuncture, except needles aren’t used. Acupressure is done with manual manipulation involving the fingers, the palm of the hand, or the thumb. Handheld devices may also be used. Special trigger points (acupoints) are targeted in a way that promotes healing and improves function by manipulating the body’s energy flow, referred to as “chi” or “qi.”
Previous research suggests acupressure may be beneficial for patients with pain related to cancer or arthritis. The new study specifically looked at how individuals with chronic back pain responded to acupressure. The study involved nearly 70 participants with chronic low back pain. The subjects were divided into three groups. The members of one group received their usual care. Participants in the other two groups received either relaxing acupressure or stimulating acupressure.
People in the acupressure group were taught how to target their own trigger points with acupressure. They did so for about half an hour each day for six weeks. The other participants in the “usual care” group continued to do what they were already doing to manage their chronic pain.
Patients in the “stimulating acupressure” group reported improvements in their levels of discomfort as well as reduced fatigue. Individuals who received relaxing acupressure also reported a decrease in their pain after six weeks. While acupressure may enhance quality of sleep for some people, there were no noticeable improvements in sleep issues related to chronic back pain at the end of the study.
Researchers are optimistic about the study’s findings. However, they do caution that more research is needed to positively link chronic back pain relief with this technique, and it’s a good idea to check with your doctor or Santa Monica spine surgeon before starting any new form of therapy. Even so, acupressure may offer the following benefits for those living with back pain:
• Increased relaxation of spine-supporting muscles and joints
• Lower stress and anxiety levels, which is beneficial because added stress sometimes makes chronic pain feel worse
• Reduced reliance on strong pain meds, such as opioids, that have potentially dangerous side effects associated with long-term use
While results from the new research involving acupressure are promising, this doesn’t mean what’s still generally considered an alternative treatment should be the only way you manage or treat chronic back pain. Most patients benefit from a well-rounded treatment plan that includes physical therapy, medication, and appropriate lifestyle adjustments, such as eating healthier foods and getting regular exercise.
If you’re experiencing chronic back pain, acupressure and other alternative therapies may provide relief. However, if your pain is severe or debilitating, it may be due to an issue that requires treatment with a procedure such as vertebroplasty surgery. Santa Monica residents should reach out to the experienced spine specialists at The Spine Institute for prompt diagnosis and a customized plan of treatment that will get them back to a pain-free life. Call one of our friendly staff members at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.