Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians

Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, Forciea MA, (2017) Ann Intern Med. 166:514–530. doi: 10.7326/M16-2367

In April of 2017 the American College of Physicians released guidelines in treating 3 types of low back pain (LBP).  Acupuncture is a fantastic modality in treating pain, either as stand alone or adjunct (though I may be bias - check out the video on my FAQ page for a great little video on how acupuncture helps to heal your body).  Here are the recommendations:

For acute or subacute LBP:  "superficial heat,, massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation"

For chronic LBP:  "initially select nonpharmacologic treatment with exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low-level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or spinal manipulation"

Next time you hurt your back, start care as soon as possible.  Getting ahead of pain is the best way to avoid chronic conditions.

Reduction in Pain Medication Prescriptions and Self-Reported Outcomes Associated with Acupuncture in a Military Patient Population.

Crawford, P., Penzien, D. B., & Coeytaux, R. (2017). Medical Acupuncture, 29(4), 229–231. doi: 10.1089/acu.2017.1234

There's been a lot of talk in the news about the American opioid crisis.  Especially within our veterans, who often face chronic and debilitating pain.  Opioids have typically been prescribed in these cases, however, we now know of the devastating side effects of these drugs.  A number of years ago there was a big push to get acupuncture into the VA system, and it has been a very successful program.  

The authors of this paper are my colleagues at the Society of Acupuncture Research where I first heard of their efforts at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.  The researchers evaluated 172 patients who had at least 4 acupuncture sessions within the past year.  They used outcome measures as reported by the patients who used a survey called Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile.  The results were astounding:

Opioid prescriptions reduced by 45%

Muscle Relaxants reduced by 35%

NSAID's reduced by 42%

Benzodiazapines reduced by 14%

These are significant steps in helping to heal our veterans.  But there's a bigger implication here - if we can add these services to the general population we can make a huge impact in the opioid crisis at large.