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Lower back pain

Acupuncture is effective for Low back pain

Low back pain is among the most common reasons for health care visits. The pain usually results from problems with the musculoskeletal system—most notably the spine, including the bones of the spine (back bones, or vertebrae), disks, and the muscles and ligaments that support it. Occasionally, low back pain results from a disorder that does not involve the musculoskeletal system.

Low back pain becomes more common as people age, affecting more than half of people over 60. It is very costly in terms of health care payments, disability payments, and missed work.

In 2017, opioids were involved in 47,600 deaths related to overdose in USA alone. Opioids carry significant risk in older population, with the number of opioid-related deaths increasing more than six fold among Americans age 65 and older between 2001 and 2016.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is keenly focused on fighting the opioids epidemic including by supporting access to pain management using a safe and effective range of treatment options that rely less on prescription opioids. 

From Jan, 2020, Medicare offered coverage for acupuncture treatments for lower back pain — up to a maximum of 20 such sessions in a year, potentially, for those whose pain isn’t related to another health problem or recent surgery.

The decision to include acupuncture is based on the thorough evidence reviews conducted by CMS.

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A large study, published in JAMA

A large study, published in JAMA, showed that acupuncture was more effective than usual care alone for helping people with chronic low back pain feel less bothered by their symptoms and function better in their daily activities.

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A Systematic Review

A Systematic Review found that acupuncture plus moxibustion is the most effective way to reduce low back pain and disability. Acupuncture is safer than other interventions.

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An overview of the earlier systematic reviews

An overview of the earlier systematic reviews about acupuncture for low back pain also showed that acupuncture, either used in isolation or as an adjunct to conventional therapy, provides short-term improvements in pain and function for chronic low back pain.

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A recent study

A recent study found that it can ease migraines and arthritis and other forms of chronic pain. The researchers, who published their results in Archives of Internal Medicine, found that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.

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Therefore, acupuncture, as an evidence-based nonpharmacological pain management option, is included in the American College of Physicians clinical guidelines for low back pain and in the pain management strategy recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

According to my experience, I have treated over 500 low back pain cases, both acute and chronic, 85% improve after two or three treatments. Other well-trained experts can achieve the same goal. It’s more mainstream than you may guess. How experts say may help you make decision. 

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