acupuncture needles

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, where our doctors focus on relieving pain without surgery, one of our most successful complementary treatment options is acupuncture. If you have never seriously considered acupuncture for chronic back pain or other musculoskeletal problems, or if you have often wondered whether those who rave about it are onto something, now may well be the time to find out.

Pain, particularly back pain, is one of the primary reasons patients seek medical care. At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our practice is integrative and holistic, offering a broad range of nonsurgical treatments, both traditional and complementary, for back pain and the inflammation that is often its underlying cause. We are well-trained in every type of therapy or procedure we offer. As a matter of fact, our physicians have pursued advanced training in acupuncture and complementary medicine at Harvard Medical School.

In the same vein, our highly skilled acupuncturists are experts in several types of acupuncture, including the unique Pulse Diagnosis style of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncture and Acupuncture Physical Medicine with trigger point release techniques. We have been successfully administering this treatment for years, and find it especially effective for patients whose back or other musculoskeletal pain have been unresponsive to oral medications, targeted injections, physical therapy, and, in some cases even surgical procedures. 

The Basics

Acupuncture has been practiced in China and other parts of Asia for thousands of years. It is based on the principle that when Qi, the major energy source that courses through the body, is disrupted, pain and disease result. 

Qi normally flows along meridians, pathways that have been carefully charted over centuries, and along these meridians, there are more than 2,000 points at which Qi energy may be interrupted or, through acupuncture, unblocked. In addition, a number of acupuncture points are located outside of these meridians. There are also known as “A-shi” points. Though not charted, they have discovered through examination as tender or reflexive pain points on the body. 

How It Works

The acupuncture treatment itself involves the insertion of tiny needles, slender as strands of hair, at some of the points described above. These needles (usually about 20) remain in their designated spots for up to 20 minutes. It should be noted that the needles are so small that they remove no tissue when they are removed. 

Far from being a painful procedure, acupuncture is relaxing; many patients doze during sessions. While patients often feel greatly improved after a treatment, for full efficacy at least 12  treatments are usually necessary for best results.

Acupuncture Is Now Accepted by Western Medicine as an Effective Mode of Treatment

Acupuncture has provided relief to millions of people in Asia for thousands of years, but Western medicine has been suspicious of the treatment until recent times. Even though a surgeon in the United States Navy reported being treated by an acupuncturist for lower back pain as far back as 1826, it has taken another 150 years for the United States to begin to accept the validity of this type of therapy.

Now, in the 21st century, more than 20 studies have demonstrated that acupuncture is more effective in providing short-term relief from chronic back pain than standard treatments. The following organizations now recommend that doctors consider acupuncture as a productive alternative therapy for patients with chronic low-back and/or other conditions:

  • American Pain Society
  • American College of Physicians 
  • United States National Institutes of Health (NIH
  • National Health Service of the United Kingdom
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

All of these organizations now support the use of acupuncture in cases in which more traditional methods fail to provide alleviation of pain.

How Western Medicine Explains the Help Acupuncture Provides

While for many patients, the principles on which acupuncture is based are no more mysterious than those surrounding MRI testing, DNA replacement, or radiation of kidney stones, Western doctors had to find explanations for acupuncture that synced with their understanding of physiology. They have now concluded that acupuncture:

  • Stimulates the central nervous system, triggering the release of endorphins
  • Speeds the relay of electromagnetic signals, releasing immune system cells
  • Triggers the release of natural opioids that act as analgesics
  • Changes brain chemistry by altering the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones

Understanding the reasons for acupuncture’s success as a treatment is enlightening and important. Feeling the relief it provides is even better.

Advantages of Acupuncture Over Other Treatments

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our doctors are physiatrists, committed to pain management and restoration of function by nonsurgical means. Being able to offer the option to our patients is invaluable since this treatment has many advantages over more conventional medications and procedures, including:

  • Acupuncture doesn’t carry the risks of other, more invasive surgical procedures
  • In the U.S., only sealed, sterile, one-time-use needles are used
  • Treatment sessions are short and require no downtime
  • It does not involve discomfort
  • Medicare and many private insurance companies now cover treatments
  • Many patients are helped by acupuncture who haven’t been helped by other therapies

As you can see, treatments offer a number of benefits in terms of convenience, cost, comfort, and safety. 

Is Acupuncture the Right Choice for You? Contact Our Experienced Doctors to Find Out

If you have tried a variety of methods to ease your back pain and nothing has worked so far, or if you are eager to avoid other conventional procedures as well as surgery, acupuncture may be precisely what you’re looking for. Contact Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine to discuss your options with our doctors, who are as compassionate as they are skilled.