Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Reverses Lower Back Pain

Qi-guiding acupuncture relieves disc herniation pain and a special intensive silver acupuncture needle protocol relieves chronic lower back myofascial pain.

Researchers find acupuncture effective for the treatment of lower back pain disorders. In a protocolized study from the Shanghai Jiaotong University Sixth People’s Hospital, researchers determined that a special type of manual acupuncture therapy, known as qi-guiding acupuncture, produces significant positive patient outcomes for lumbar intervertebral disc herniation patients. In related research from Xinping Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, investigators find acupuncture combined with moxibustion effective for the alleviation of lower back pain due to lumbodorsal myofascial pain syndrome. A special application of silver acupuncture needles produced superior patient outcomes. Let’s start with a look at the Shanghai Jiaotang University research and then we’ll see how the silver needle protocol boosts treatment efficacy for the treatment of lower back pain.

 

Lower Back Needles

 

Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of lumbar intervertebral disc herniations. Wu et al. (Shanghai Jiaotong University Sixth People’s Hospital) investigated the treatment results of qi-guiding acupuncture with meridian differentiated acupoint selections and determined that it produces significant positive treatment outcomes for lumbar intervertebral disc herniation patients. Wu et al. also find electroacupuncture with meridian differentiated acupoint selections effective; however, qi-guiding acupuncture had a slightly higher rate of producing positive patient outcomes. Qi-guiding acupuncture had an 87.5% total treatment effective rate and electroacupuncture achieved an 86.6% total treatment effective rate. Qi-guiding acupuncture also had better outcomes for increases in nerve conduction velocity. The results are definitive given the large sample size of 549 patients with lumbar disc herniations evaluated in this study. 

Lumbar disc herniation patients experience lower back pain and radiculopathy (radiating pain and numbness) as a result of anulus fibrosis damage, IVF encroachment, and other issues associated with disc damage (Hu et al.). Acupuncture, as one of the most common non-surgical treatment methods for lumbar disc herniation, has a high treatment effective rate and no significant adverse effects (Cheng).

Qi-guiding acupuncture was first documented in ancient literature, including The Systematic Classic of Acupuncture & Moxibustion by Huang-fu Mi. In qi-guiding acupuncture, needle entry and removal is controlled and slow. To direct qi upward, the acupuncture needle is oriented upward; similarly, to direct qi downward, the needle is pointed downward. Subsequently, the needle is frequently rotated, lifted, and thrust to regulate the flow of qi in the body. Additional manipulation techniques may be intermittently applied. In modern use, qi-guiding acupuncture repairs ultramicroscopic structures of damaged nerve roots and accelerates other aspects of nerve repair, thereby increasing nerve conduction.

In this study, lumbar disc herniation patients receiving qi-guiding acupuncture achieved an 87.5% total treatment effective rate. Patients receiving electroacupuncture achieved an 86.6% total treatment effective rate. Both qi-guiding acupuncture and electroacupuncture significantly increased nerve conduction velocity. Qi-guiding acupuncture had a slightly greater improvement in common peroneal nerve conduction velocity and superficial fibular nerve conduction velocity. Common peroneal nerve conduction velocity increased from 38.26 ± 12.8 to 44.75 ± 5.24 after the application of qi-guiding acupuncture, and increased from 39.11 ± 3.64 to 39.86 ± 10.95 after electroacupuncture. Superficial fibular nerve conduction velocity increased from 41.63 ± 4.37 to 42.55 ± 6.43 after the application of qi-guiding acupuncture, and increased from 40.71 ± 9.56 to 40.43 ± 4.01 after electroacupuncture.

A total of 549 patients with lumbar disc herniations were treated and evaluated in this study. These patients were diagnosed with lumbar disc herniations between December 2012 and March 2014. They were randomly divided into a treatment group and a control group, with 280 patients in the treatment group and 269 patients in the control group. The treatment group underwent qi-guiding acupuncture therapy, while the control group received electroacupuncture. Acupoint selection for both groups was based on meridian differentiation. Identical acupoints were selected for both patient groups.

For Taiyang meridian lumbago and leg pain (scelalgia):

  • Shenshu (BL23)
  • Dachangshu (BL25)
  • Zhibian (BL54)
  • Huantiao (GB30)
  • Juliao (GB29)
  • Yinmen (BL37)
  • Weizhong (BL40)
  • Chengshan (BL57)
  • Kunlun (BL60)

For Yangming meridian lumbago and leg pain:

  • Shenshu (BL23)
  • Dachangshu (BL25)
  • Qichong (ST30)
  • Biguan (ST31)
  • Futu (ST32)
  • Tiaokou (ST38)
  • Zusanli (ST36)

For Shaoyang meridian lumbago and leg pain:

  • Shenshu (BL23)
  • Dachangshu (BL25)
  • Huantiao (GB30)
  • Fengshi (GB31)
  • Yanglingquan (GB34)

For qi-guiding acupuncture, the following protocol was administered. Upon disinfection with 75% ethanol, a 0.30 mm x 40 mm filiform acupuncture needle was inserted into each selected acupoint. Huantiao and Juliao were needle to a depth of 2.5 inches. The remaining acupoints were needled to a depth of 1.2 inches. When a deqi sensation was achieved for all acupoints, qi-guiding needling with the Xie (reducing) manipulation technique was applied to Weizhong, Tiaokou, and Yanglingquan to transmit the needling sensation upward and toward the hip or waist. The same technique was applied to Huantiao, Juliao, and Biguan, instead transmitting the needle sensation downward and toward the legs. Subsequently, qi-guiding needling with the Bu (tonification) manipulation technique was applied on Dachangshu to transmit the needle sensation toward the lumbosacral area. The same technique was used on Shenshu until a deqi sensation of soreness or swelling was perceived at the lumbar region. A needle retention time of 20 minutes was observed during which the needles were rotated, lifted, and thrusted every 5 minutes to facilitate the flow of qi. One qi-guiding acupuncture session was conducted every other day for a total of 10 treatments.

Electroacupuncture for the control group was administered with the same aforementioned protocol. Before needle retention, the needles were connected to an electroacupuncture device. The device was then set to a continuous wave at 4 Hz with a 2mA current. A 20 minute needle retention time was subsequently observed. One electroacupuncture session was conducted every other day for a total of 10 treatments. The clinical results the Wu et al. study demonstrate that both qi-guiding acupuncture and electroacupuncture, when combined with meridian-differentiated acupoint selection, are suitable and effective therapies for lumbar disc herniation patients. However, qi-guiding acupuncture produces slightly better treatment outcomes in terms of nerve conduction velocity improvements.

In a related study, Wang H.D. (Xinping Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine) finds acupuncture combined with moxibustion therapy effective for the treatment of lumbodorsal myofascial pain syndrome. The study also finds that a silver needle protocol produces preferable treatment outcomes to conventional acupuncture. Lumbodorsal myofascial pain syndrome causes chronic lumbago and commonly occurs in young adults. Intensive acupuncture combined with moxibustion using silver needles was famously used by Professor Xuan Zhe Ren, a renowned Chinese orthopedist.

Acupoints were selected based on the degree of soft tissue damage, area of muscular tissue involved, and size of tendon contracture. In this approach, acupoints are 2 cm apart from each other and are mainly located on the lumbosacral region. Results from Wang’s study demonstrate that lumbodorsal myofascial pain syndrome patients receiving intensive acupuncture combined with moxibustion using silver needles achieved a 90% total treatment effective rate. Conventional acupuncture with moxibustion achieved an 83.3% total treatment effective rate.

Wang’s study involved a total of 60 patients with lumbodorsal myofascial pain syndrome. They were divided into a treatment group and a control group, with 30 patients in each group. The treatment group underwent intensive acupuncture-moxibustion therapy with silver needles. The control group received conventional acupuncture-moxibustion.

Intensive acupuncture-moxibustion with silver needles was applied to the T12 – L4 Jiaji acupoints and the acupoints located at the midpoint between each Jiaji acupoint. In addition, acupoints located 2 cm lateral to the Jiaji acupoints were needled. Finally, moxibustion applied with one Zhuang of 3 cm moxa cigar. One session was conducted daily for a total of 7 days. For conventional acupuncture-moxibustion therapy, the following primary acupoints were selected:

  • Shenshu (BL23)
  • Mingmen (GV4)
  • Weizhong (BL40)
  • Ashi

Additional acupoints were selected based on individual symptoms. For lumbago with chill-dampness:

  • Yaoyangguan (GV3)

For lumbago due to exhaustion:

  • Yanglingquan (GB34)
  • Sanyinjiao (SP6)

For lumbago with kidney deficiency:

  • Zhishi (BL52)
  • Taixi (KD3)

A needle retention time of 30 minutes was observed. Subsequently, moxibustion was applied using either a 4 hole or 6 hole moxa box on the lumbar acupoints. One session was conducted daily for a total of 7 days. The treatment efficacy for each patient was evaluated and categorized into 1 of 3 tiers:

  • Recovery: Complete elimination of symptoms. Physical movement regained completely. No pain points.
  • Significantly effective: Elimination of symptoms. Physical movement regained. Discomfort reoccurs only under exhaustion or change in weather. No pain or numbness.
  • Effective: Symptoms relieved. Pain or numbness present.
  • Not effective: No improvement in symptoms.

The total treatment effective rate for each patient group was derived as the percentage of patients who achieved at least an effective tier of improvement. The intensive acupuncture-moxibustion with silver needles protocol outperformed conventional acupuncture. However, both approaches produced significant positive patient outcomes.

Both aforementioned studies indicate that acupuncture is effective for the alleviation of lower back pain. These studies highlight the differences in therapeutic effects between various forms of acupuncture. As a result, qi-guiding acupuncture and intensive acupuncture-moxibustion with silver needles are found clinically effective for the relief of lower back pain.

 


References:
Wu YC, Sun YJ, Zhang JF, Li Y, Zhang YY & Wang CM. (2014). Clinical Study of Qi-guiding Acupuncture at Points Selected According to Meridian Differentiation for Treatment of Lumbar Intervertebral Disc Herniation. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 33(12).

Cheng XN. (1987). The study of Chinese acupuncture-moxibustion. Volume 1, Beijing: People's medical publishing house. 192-284.

Hu YG. (1995). Prolapse of lumbar intervertebral disc. Volume 2, Beijing: People's medical publishing house. 226-228.

Zhu WM, Wu YC, Zhang JF, et al. (2010). Tuina combined with acupoint injection in treating prolapse of lumbar intervertebral disc. Chinese Journal of Sports Medicine. 29(6): 708-709.

Wang HD. (2013). Clinical Observation on Intensive Acupuncture-moxibustion with Silver Needles for Lumbodorsal Myofascial Pain Syndrome. Shanghai J Acu-mox. 32(8).

 


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