Back Pain Treatment
This ancient Chinese practice has been gaining increasing acceptance and popularity in the United States. Acupuncture is based on the theory that a life force called qi (pronounced chee) flows through the body along certain channels, which, if blocked, can cause illness. According to the theory, the insertion of thin needles at precise locations along these channels by practitioners can unblock the flow of qi, relieving pain and restoring health.
Although few Western-trained doctors would agree with the concept of blocked qi, some believe that inserting and then stimulating needles (by twisting or passing a low-voltage electrical current through them) may foster the production of the body's natural pain-numbing chemicals, such as endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine.
A consensus panel convened by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1997 concluded that there is clear evidence that this treatment is effective for some pain conditions, including postoperative dental pain. Although there is less convincing evidence to support using acupuncture for back pain and other pain conditions, the panel concluded that acupuncture may be effective when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for low back pain, fibromyalgia, and several other conditions.
As with acupuncture, the theory behind acupressure is that it unblocks the flow of qi. The difference between acupuncture and acupressure is that no needles are used in acupressure. Instead, a therapist applies pressure to points along the channels with his or her hands, elbows, or even feet. In some cases, patients are taught to do their own acupressure. However, it is important to note that acupressure has not been well studied as a treatment for back pain.
Rolfing is a type of massage that involves using strong pressure on deep tissues in the back to relieve tightness of the fascia, a sheath of tissue that covers the muscles, which can cause or contribute to back pain. The theory behind rolfing is that releasing muscles and tissues from the fascia enables the back to properly align itself. So far, the usefulness of rolfing as a back pain treatment has not been scientifically proven.