Acupuncture for Upper Back Pain: How Does it Work?

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Acute and chronic back pain are the top reasons why people skip work. Chronic pain can be dull but persistent for some, while others experience debilitating pain that prevents them from moving around and living their life comfortably. While there are lots of treatment options for this condition, acupuncture still remains a popular choice for those who prefer alternative treatment that doesn’t involve any pain medication or surgery.

So how exactly does acupuncture treatment work for relieving upper back pain? Acupuncture is from traditional Chinese medicine that involves poking pressure points throughout the body with thin needles. This minimally invasive pain treatment helps relieve back pain by removing blockages, stimulating the nerves, and releasing natural opioids and healing hormones.

Is the Treatment of Neck and Upper Back Pain With Acupuncture Effective?

Although lower back pain is much more common than upper back pain, a study about thoracic spine pain reveals that it still affects about 15% to 19% of the general population. In most cases, upper back pain is also accompanied by neck pain and shoulder pain.

While the cause of upper back pain varies per patient, some of the most common reasons are a pinched nerve, poor posture, or an underlying spinal condition. Many patients recover from chronic upper back pain using pain medications, chiropractic care, or physical therapy, while others prefer an acupuncture session to relieve muscle tension and back pain.

A 2012 study explores the effectiveness of authentic acupuncture treatment versus sham acupuncture – revealing that those who had the real acupuncture session experienced up to 50% improvement in their chronic pain problems. But before you try this treatment, it’s best to do your research first and consult a doctor or acupuncturist.

How Upper Back Pain Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine created thousands of years ago. It’s based on the concept of energetics in the body and how qi flows. During an acupuncture session, the acupuncturist locates the right acupuncture point and inserts the needle there.

The needles aren’t meant to cause pain or discomfort to patients. They only target the qi meridians to stimulate the nerves, resulting in the production of natural opioids and healing chemicals in the brain. Acupuncture also soothes tight muscle knots and alleviates muscle pain.

Acupuncture vs. Other Similar Treatments

Acupuncture is a simple, alternative treatment for chronic low back pain and upper back pain, but it’s still often confused with other similar treatments. Here’s how you can tell them apart and decide which one works better for you:

  • Dry needling – This treatment is similar to acupuncture since it also uses thin needles to remove muscle knots in the body. But what sets dry needling apart is that it can be performed in non-trigger point locations to relieve muscle pain.
  • Acupressure – Acupressure uses the same locations as the acupuncture point system. But instead of using needles to target these points, acupressure uses fingertips and thumbs to manually apply pressure to the acupressure point.

Acupuncture Points for Upper Back Pain Relief

Professional acupuncturists target the qi or energy points along the body’s meridians. There are over 350 acupuncture points in the body, but the most commonly used ones for upper back pain relief are found near the levator scapulae, shoulder joint, neck, and head. Some acupuncturists also stimulate the points in the hands or feet to alleviate upper back pain.

In addition to thoracic spine pain, acupuncture is also helpful for alleviating pain symptoms caused by similar neuromuscular issues. This includes headaches, musculoskeletal pain, sciatica, temporomandibular joint disorder, fibromyalgia, and more.

How Effective is Acupuncture for Upper Back Pain?

The exact science and mechanism behind acupuncture aren’t well-understood, but it’s still a successful go-to treatment for many patients who prefer alternative medicine for their upper back pain. Regardless of how the treatment works, lots of studies report the positive effects of acupuncture for back pain with small risks of side effects.

A 2013 study shows that acupuncture may even perform better than pain medications for low back pain – a promising observation that may also apply to upper back pain conditions with more research.

Acupuncture Benefits for Upper Back Pain

The areas targeted by acupuncture for upper back pain are all connected since they create a flow of energy throughout the body. Focusing on an acupuncture point may support good physical and mental health because it helps restore the body’s natural balance. If you’re considering acupuncture for yourself, here are some of the benefits that may convince you to go for it:

  • It stimulates the nervous system
  • It helps the body release opioid-like compounds, like morphine or hydrocodone
  • It releases neurotransmitters to regulate nerve endings responsible for pain sensations
  • It triggers the body’s electromagnetic impulses to support the way the body handles pain

Do You Need to Visit Upper Back Pain Acupuncture Clinics?

What many people love about acupuncture is that the treatment isn’t limited to back pain patients – even patients with high levels of stress and anxiety can benefit from this relaxing alternative therapy.

But unlike acupressure treatments that can be done at home with the right instructions, it’s better to find an acupuncture clinic for upper back pain relief. Sham and at-home acupuncture treatments can do more harm than good, so it’s best to leave this kind of pain treatment to professionals who have the right equipment and training for it.

Comprehensive Treatments for Upper Back Pain Relief at Gramercy Pain Center

Acupuncture is a safe and effective upper back pain treatment, as long as it’s performed by a professional acupuncturist. However, this might not always be the best option for some patients. For example, patients with bleeding disorders or those who use a pacemaker should skip this treatment to avoid any serious complications. Pregnant women are also advised against trying this alternative therapy because some acupuncture points may induce early labor.

For more comprehensive treatments for upper back pain, our team at Gramercy Pain Center offers the following services:

  • Massage therapy
  • Cortisone injections
  • Implanted nerve stimulators
  • Spine surgery
  • Radiofrequency neurotomy

Explore Safe Ways to Relieve Upper Back Pain at Gramercy Pain Center

Upper back pain is one of the most common signs of a medical condition that requires immediate medical attention. Living with disruptive back pain affects an individual’s quality of life, so many patients turn to safe and effective alternative medicine like acupuncture to experience immediate pain relief.

But at Gramercy Pain Center, we understand that patients experience pain and respond to treatments differently. We offer a wide range of pain management services to help our patients eliminate or manage their chronic upper back pain more effectively. Book an appointment with us today.

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