Faster Low Back Pain Recovery With Acupuncture and Topical Herbs

acupunctureIn a new research study published this month, researchers reported on a new method of treating low back pain resulting from herniated disks in the lumbar spine. The researchers wanted to see if they could get increased efficiency of electro acupuncture treatments by utilizing a technique called iontophoresis to administer herbal decoctions during treatments.

Electro acupuncture is a technique where very small amounts of electricity are run through acupuncture needles and cycled at different rates to produce varying amounts of stimulation to acupuncture points. It is not painful and most patients report the sensation as a light tapping on the acupuncture point. It is very effective for pain, tissue regrowth and wound healing, as well as nerve pain and repair with the right parameters. It is widely utilized in China especially in applications for surgical anesthesia to block nerve sensations.

Iontophoresis is a method of transferring a substance through the skin utilizing a solvent and an electric field to push an ionized solution through the skin to a targeted area. It is a non-invasive technique and has been likened to receiving and injection without a needle. Medicines and other substances are able to be applied to very specific areas of internal anatomy using this method. This differs from the usage of herbal patches and plasters placed over the skin in that an electrical field is required for the transfer of medicinal substances.

The researchers found that electro acupuncture alone had an 87% recovery rate for patients undergoing 10 daily acupuncture treatments followed by 3 days of rest and then 10 more treatments. When also utilizing the iontophoresis, the recovery rate increased to 95%. These rates were established by the use of diagnostic scales such as the McGill and Japanese Orthopedic Association Visual Analogue Scale.

The researchers used an herbal decoction, that is medicinal herbs boiled over 30 to an hour, strained and re-boiled, consisting of herbs known for pain relief, bone regeneration, increasing circulation, and being able to affect the spine and lower back. Cotton pads were soaked in the herbal decoction and then excess liquid was squeezed out and these were placed over the vertebrae with herniation, the iontophoresis device was placed over these and then run, administering the herbal medicine directly to the damaged area of the spine.

The researchers found that utilizing both methods of treatment together resulted in not only better recovery outcomes for patients, but also faster and longer lasting recovery times as well.

While we do not utilize iontophoresis at South Denver Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Clinic, we do utilize a variety of herbal plasters, liniments, and internal herbal medicines combined with acupuncture, tui na massage, cupping, gua sha and auricular acupuncture to approach pain from multiple angles to ensure good lasting results and effective pain management.

Pain is the most frequent complaint that we see in the office and the use of acupuncture and the other modalities listed above can be very effective to provide lasting pain relief.

If you have pain issues, health issues, or any questions about acupuncture or Chinese medicine, please do not hesitate to call or email me, I would love to speak with you!

For a Summary of the research study click here.


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Christopher Shiflett L.Ac  M.S. TCM, Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)

Christopher Shiflett L.Ac M.S. TCM, Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)

Founder & Clinic Director

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