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Can acupuncture treat a degenerative spine?

If you’re familiar with the potential benefits of acupuncture, you might be wondering if this ancient Chinese practice can be helpful for degenerative spine treatment. Based on the belief that the body is engulfed by a balanced energy force (Chi), acupuncture is designed to promote the free flow of energy in targeted areas. Acupuncture practitioners believe that if the Chi is blocked, the nervous system may respond by sending pain signals throughout the body.

To help clear a blocked energy channel, an acupuncturist will typically insert several very fine needles into a patient’s skin along a pain pathway. After pinpointing the location of a spinal nerve that is compressed by a bone spur, herniated disc or other degenerative spine condition, a practitioner can determine the optimal positioning of the acupuncture needles.

How can acupuncture help with degenerative spine treatment?

Once regarded as nothing more than an exotic curiosity, the practice of acupuncture is gaining acceptance within the mainstream medical community. However, the mechanisms by which it works remain unclear. One view is that acupuncture can prompt the body to produce natural “feel good” hormones (endorphins), which may help diminish the perception of pain, such as that caused by a degenerative spine condition.

Another opinion, which is known as the gate control theory, contends that all forms of pain result from a complex relationship between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (a series of nerve roots that branch away from the spinal cord into the torso, arms and legs). Specifically:

  • After an injury occurs, pain signals are transmitted by nerves in the damaged tissue.
  • The pain signals travel along the peripheral nerve pathways to reach the spinal cord and ultimately the brain.

Prior to reaching the brain, however, the pain signals encounter a series of nerve gates in the spinal cord. By producing a continual stream of signals that cause these nerve gates to close, acupuncture may prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. As such, acupuncture may be a helpful component of degenerative spine treatment.

Other degenerative spine treatment options

While many people are able to find sufficient pain relief through acupuncture and conservative treatment options, some ultimately decide to have surgery. Although generally viewed as a last resort treatment for degenerative spine conditions, surgery at USA Spine Care can be beneficial for certain candidates.

The surgeons at USA Spine Care perform several minimally invasive spine procedures to address a variety of degenerative spine conditions. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.

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