Acupuncture v Chiropractor
At some point in your life the chances are you will experience lower back pain. You may have heard acupuncture and chiropractic care are both good for treating lower back pain. So who do you go and see? Well, like my last blog comparing chiropractors and osteopaths the answer is not black and white. This is due to differences that occur within each profession and personal preferences of the individual seeking treatment. So the aim of this blog is to explain and compare what each profession does, so you can make an informed choice as to whether you would prefer to see an acupuncturist or a chiropractor.
Starting with acupuncture there are two distinct schools of thought. The first is Traditional acupuncture and the second is western medical acupuncture or also called dry needling. A description from the British Acupuncture Council describes traditional acupuncture as a Health care system based on ancient principles of Chinese medicine that dates back more than 2000 years. It is concerned with the health and function of an individual, and looks at illness and pain as signs the body is out of balance. Balance can be restored by enhancing the flow of Qi or vital energy through the body. The flow of Qi is improved by inserting acupuncture needles at specific points within the body to remove blocked energy. Qi or vital energy is described as life energy that needs to flow freely through the body to maintain good health. To train and become a qualified acupuncturist, normally takes about three years to complete.
Western Medical Acupuncture
The second school of thought is Western medical acupuncture, although acupuncture needles are used it is based on an entirely different rationale. This has evolved from traditional acupuncture, where needles are inserted into areas based on current knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology. As opposed to the traditional acupuncture which is based on mapped out areas of the body where qi is thought to be blocked. The western medical acupuncturist will look to insert needles into trigger points, which are essentially knots that can build up within the muscle either through trauma or over use. This style of acupuncture is typically used by chiropractors, osteopaths, GPs or physiotherapists who have attended post graduate courses.
What the guidelines say
The recently updated NICE guidelines (The guidelines used by the NHS as to being best practice for health professionals) recommend spinal manipulative therapy (also known as chiropractic adjustments), massage techniques and combined psychological and physical exercise programmes. These are all treatment modalities I use with the guests at Lushington Chiropractic Clinic. Acupuncture was recently dropped from the updated guidelines, but that is not to say it does not work, just more research is needed. I know through my personal experience patients who have chiropractic treatment and see an acupuncturist, do very well.
We both want to improve your health
Chiropractic care and acupuncture are both more than treating a back pain, they are about improving overall health – see our blog what is chiropractic. As a chiropractor my main goal is to improve the movement of your musculoskeletal system, and understand how that can reduce your pain and have other health benefits. The acupuncturists goal is also to promote health, so from that point of view we have similar goals. If you are not sure who to see for your back pain, see what approach resonates with you. Speaking as a chiropractor I would say that if you came to see me, I would make sure you get a good diagnosis and a personalised treatment package which would be appropriate to your needs. I am confident I can help with most types of mechanical back pain, but am also sure an acupuncturist might say the same thing. If I felt acupuncture would be a useful adjunct to your treatment, I can refer you to my colleagues Louise, Karen, Gary and Mykel who are chiropractors here at Lushington Chiropractic in Eastbourne who practice western medical acupuncture. I have done my best to give a balanced opinion on the different approaches and be as accurate as possible. However, I am a chiropractor and not an acupuncturist, so you might get a different opinion from an acupuncturist.
Thanks for reading.
Want to find out more about low back pain?
We have a huge variety of blogs on low back pain. If you’ve found this blog helpful and would like to find out more, then please check out one of our other blogs on low back pain below.
General advice and self-help advice
Stretching and exercises
Posture and Low Back Pain
Sleeping and Low Back Pain
Gardening and Low Back Pain
Back pain in the elderly
By James Revell
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