Acupuncture and Trigger Point Therapy For Low Back Pain
Trigger-point acupuncture releases sensitive nodules in the skeletal musculature that cause referred pain—what we refer to in layman’s terms as “knots.” Rather than temporarily masking the pain that’s caused by trigger points, as medications do, acupuncture actually eliminates the source of the problem. This therapy is not only effectively used to relieve low back problems but also for neck, shoulder, wrist, leg pain etc. This article will focus exclusively on trigger-point acupuncture for low back pain.
Which Trigger Points Cause Low Back Pain?
With low back pain, the source can be trigger points in a number of different muscles.
Trigger points in the following muscles can refer pain to the low back: erector spinae longissimus, erector spinae iliocostalis, multifidi, rotatores, rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, iliopsoas, gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, levator ani, and piriformis.
The pain-referral patterns for some of these muscles are shown above, along with a composite pattern that can appear when multiple muscles are involved.
In Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, author Janet Travell, a Western physician who is credited with coining the term “trigger point,” says of low back pain, “Occasionally only one muscle will be responsible for the pain as presented, but it is much more common for several muscles to contribute to overlapping pain patterns….No two patients present exactly the same picture.”
Travell says, “The muscles in general and [trigger points] in particular receive little attention as a major source of pain and dysfunction in modern medical school teaching and in medical textbooks.”
Treatment of Trigger Points with Acupuncture
One of the great things about acupuncture of any kind is that is places you into the relaxation response, similar to what is achieved by meditation. Acupuncture reduces our body’s biochemical responses to stress, lowers blood pressure and reduces inflammation and pain.
In terms of hormones and neurotransmitters it does this by increasing the secretion of our body’s natural opiates, endorphins; and by increasing secretion of natural cortisone-like anti-inflammation drugs in the adrenal glands.
Trigger point acupuncture goes one step further. In addition to being profoundly relaxing, as above, when you relieve trigger points, especially the ones in the muscle belly associated with motor points, the muscle responds by actually lengthening; this has a decompressing effect on joints, tendons, and tendon sheaths. It is not unusual after a trigger point acupuncture treatment for the affected joints to “release” as after a chiropractic adjustment, gently, naturally, and safely. This is generally followed by an immediate relief in pain.
It is also typical that after acupuncture treatment to feel extremely refreshed, as if after a deep sleep. One will often sleep profoundly well the night of a treatment, which has enormous restorative value.
Treatment is much more effective when the practitioner is familiar with trigger point therapy and acupuncture, as trigger point therapy is not taught in acupuncture schools.