Does acupuncture work for back pain? In this article I will explain how acupuncture works for back pain, along with pain symptoms in general.

I have been practicing acupuncture for years and years. In this time I always get asked “does acupuncture work for back pain?” Patients will commonly say that it is magic that when I place an acupuncture point on the hand, it helps move pain away from the upper back. Even stranger is when I treat a patient face up to help back pain.

I commonly get asked questions like “acupuncture might help back pain, but can it also help wrist pain?”. “I hear acupuncture can benefit headaches, but can it help migraine headaches?”. In this article I will explain how acupuncture helps back pain, along with many other types of pain commonly seen in clinic.

In 2006, I applied to work with Steiner (a worldwide company that started in London). One of the main focuses of the company is training spa estheticians. They also train fitness therapists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists which will then be placed on a cruise ship line. For my first job post-secondary training, I was thrilled that I might get the chance to work internationally.

Julie in the Med!

During the training, one of the more difficult jobs I would be required to do is seminars with up to 200 people on board a cruise ship, eek! Fortunately I am okay with public speaking. However, knowing that each week I would need to do 2 to 4 seminars was a bit daunting. I actually really enjoyed learning and adding my experience to the speeches I would be performing. So why am I mentioning this experience 16 years later?

I loved that we would get to speak about why Chinese Medicine was one of the fastest growing alternative therapies worldwide. I found it fascinating that we would be speaking about how acupuncture works from a western medicine perspective. This is the first thing that I will share with you.

There are 5 main theories for why acupuncture is effective. These 5 theories show how acupuncture works for back pain. The theories were tested with blood draws taken before and then after an acupuncture treatment. This is what they discovered:

1)The “Augmentation” Theory: Acupuncture raises levels of anti-bodies as well as specific hormones, white blood counts, and others. This is why acupuncture treats disorders related to the immune system. This is one of the reasons acupuncture can help back pain due to autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

2)The “Endorphin” Theory: Acupuncture showed to boost endorphins in the body. Endorphins are basically our body’s feel good hormones, and are 10 times stronger than morphine!

3)The “Neurotransmitter” Theory: Certain neurotransmitters such as Seratonin and Noradrenaline are released with acupuncture. When you have pain, you generally have emotions of frustration, irritability, and others that flare up. These neurotransmitters make you feel really good after acupuncture, and leave some people ‘stoned’. I find after I have an acupuncture treatment I am very very relaxed. For people who have never had acupuncture, that sounds crazy, but it is a fact.

4)The “Circulatory” Theory: This theory seems fairly obvious, but acupuncture will boost the circulation, and can dilate constricted blood vessels that inhibit blood flow. There are two acupuncture points on the body that are focused on moving blood stagnation and improving the circulation I like to call the ‘advil points’. This theory states that all points will help the circulation! that sounds promising!

5)The “Gate Control” Theory: Acupuncture is thought to stimulate inhibitory nerve fibers for a short period. This reduces transmission of pain signals to the brain. Pain signals must pass through ‘gates’ as they move from an area of injury up through the spinal cord to the brain. Pain signals will move slowly up to the brain and the ‘gates’ can only handle a limited amount of signals at once. Acupuncture generates quicker stimulus to the brain and will block the slow pain signals from reaching the brain. The idea is that you won’t ‘experience’ the pain.

This map below shows the map of the acupuncture meridians on the body. The meridians are where acupuncture points lie. Acupuncture points are chosen along certain highways. What I find amazing is that this map has remained unchanged for thousands of years.

The idea that this map has not changed shows you that this theory is tried and true to practice. The goal is to have energy move through these highways freely. When someone has back pain, the energy highways can become blocked locally. In order to move the stagnation we will choose points along the meridian which will restore the free flow by increasing circulation to the area in order to treat the pain. We will also chose points that will help the specific individuals constitution. I love that every treatment for every patient is different every time. It keeps my job interesting! I hope you now understand how acupuncture helps back pain.

One of the other treatments along with acupuncture that works for back pain is cupping. You can read more about cupping by clicking HERE.

If you want to learn about how to help your neck pain at home with acupressure watch the video below!

If you are local to Vancouver and wish to book an appointment with me, please contact me at You can also book through Babor Beauty Spa Vancouver by clicking HERE.


Thank-you to Steiner for the incredible experience I had working with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. I will always be thankful for providing me with some of the theories above.