How Often is Acupuncture Needed for Back Pain

One of the most common questions that is asked when someone is considering acupuncture is: “How many visits will it take”. This is a simple question, the answer however, is complex. This is because there are many causes for back pain. Injury, arthritis, bulging/degenerated/ruptured discs, weakness of muscles, obesity, stress and posture are just some of the causes for back pain. Additionally, any or even all these causes can be present in the same individual. The number of causes involved and length of time that they have been present greatly affect the duration and frequency of treatment. The most common reasons seen in an acupuncture clinic are typically: acute injury, disc dysfunction and then some combination of stress, weakness of muscles, posture and obesity. Typical treatment plans for each are outlined below.

Acute Injury - An acute sprain or strain of the back is the easiest and most responsive of all these scenarios. Treatment 2-3 times per week for about a month will get the problem 80-90% resolved. At that time, stretching and strengthening can be added along with a decreased frequency of treatment over another 6-8 weeks. This should have the injury back to close to 100%. Obviously, some of this will depend on the severity of the injury along with the age and physical condition of the patient.

Disc Dysfunction - This type of back pain is less clear cut because the nature and severity of the dysfunction will dictate not only the length and frequency of treatment but also how much the pain can be eliminated and/or managed. A bulging disc that occurred very recently in a young, healthy individual can respond much as outlined above with an acute injury. A highly degenerated disc in an obese individual who does not exercise and is in their mid-60’s is more likely in a pain “management” situation requiring ongoing treatment on a long-term basis. Other cases can end up anywhere between these two situations.

Stress/Weakness/Posture/Obesity - This is the most common situation that people will seek out acupuncture for relief. The reason for this is that western medicine has little to offer besides pain medication for these causes. Treatment planning for this scenario is highly dependent on how much patients can incorporate changes that will help them heal themselves. Changes in diet, exercise and stress management will go a long way toward reducing not only the duration and frequency of treatment but the overall need for ongoing treatment. If patients are willing and able to do things like a half hour of exercise on a daily basis, incorporate dietary changes that help them lose extra weight and do things like meditation on a daily basis, they can often eliminate the back pain on their own in short order.

Complex answers for a simple question. Since the causes are so complex and since people are so complex a complete evaluation by a qualified Acupuncturist will give some indication about treatment planning. The rest becomes clear once responses to treatment can be observed.

​Princeton Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Our patients know just how effective treatments are for these and a host of other problems. Steven Hoffman, a New Jersey Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Oriental Medicine, will provide you with a thorough intake and evaluation and a clear, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that will insure that your goals are met or exceeded. Do you want to move past these or other problems? We will help you thrive not just survive!

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