Treating low back pain with integrative medicine

Margaret Boyd, LAc, LMT

Nearly everyone will experience low back pain at some point in life – it’s one of the top reasons people seek medical treatment. The good news is chronic low back pain is one of the conditions that research suggests integrative medicine may be an effective treatment tool.

Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center, and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person's health. Integrative therapies are evidence-based, and often have less side effects as well as prescription medication costs and other interventions. Fortunately, Agnesian HealthCare is one of the few systems around that offers these therapies.

The most recent guidelines for treating acute and chronic back pain emphasize non-pharmacologic approaches, including acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, massage, yoga, meditation, rehabilitation, cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as exercise. The American College of Physicians (ACP) has formally recommended these services for the treatment of back pain. The ACP presents recommendations based on quality evidence in modern research. The official grade given to acupuncture by the ACP is a “strong recommendation.” On the contrary, treatment with opioids is only recommended with an official “weak recommendation” after other modalities have not provided adequate relief.

Acupuncture originated in China around 3,000 years ago. It involves the insertion of very thin needles along certain points of the body. These acupuncture points are found along meridians, or pathways through which qi, or energy, flow. By stimulating the points, qi is balanced and energy flow is restored. It is thought that acupuncture’s benefits occur in part by stimulating the central nervous system. This may trigger the release of chemicals into the body which alter the experience of pain and promote a sense of well-being.

Acupuncture is considered very safe. Patients should check with their insurance as coverage varies. A course of 10 to 20 treatments can be expected for patients with chronic pain, with possible maintenance treatments required thereafter.

Hear Margaret share the the benefits of acupuncture. Visit

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (920) 926-8500. 

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