“Couldn’t walk this morning with debilitating back pain. Just been to see Ben, and I jogged home! Incredible!”

Aaron, London

“I initially went to see Ben for lower back pain and headaches. He worked wonders and I noticed a huge difference straight away. However, I also noticed a huge shift in my health and well-being generally and continue to see him frequently. Thankyou.”

Bill, London

“I genuinely cannot recommend Ben enough (and do very regularly recommend him to colleagues and my PT clients)…Despite seeing many physio’s [sic] following a bike accident 2 years ago, a combination of gua sha & acupuncture from Ben has been the only treatment that has made a hugely beneficial impact to my shoulder injury and TMJ. Thank you Ben!”

Holly, London

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Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain
Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain

Painful conditions within Chinese medicine:

In Chinese Medicine, conditions characterised by pain, stiffness, or numbness in the muscles, tendons, and joints are often referred to as ‘bi-syndrome’. Within the Chinese medicine framework, these conditions are typically exacerbated by environmental factors such as cold and damp weather. Bi-syndrome is a type of “painful obstruction syndrome” often associated with an underlying imbalance in the body’s Qi (vital energy) and blood circulation.

According to Chinese Medicine theory, bi-syndrome can have numerous aggravating factors, including external pathogenic factors (EPFs) such as exposure to wind, cold, dampness, heat and dryness, and internal factors such as emotional stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Treatment typically involves a combination of acupuncture and lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes and exercise.

The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and stiffness, improve circulation and mobility, and restore balance to the body’s Qi and blood flow. Treatment plans are individualised based on each patient’s underlying causes and specific symptoms.

Acupuncture for pain relief:

When it comes to acupuncture specifically, there are numerous treatment approaches; all should involve a balance of acupuncture points that are distal, local, or adjacent to the problem while also treating the root condition, which is specific to the individual. Acupuncture may also be applied to the opposite side of the body or distal points in a mirror image of the body; for example, one may treat the left knee for pain in the right elbow. Sounds crazy, right? However, this can be incredibly effective in practice.

To get to the root of the problem, your practitioner will always ask you some questions regarding the pain you are experiencing. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • where is the pain located?
  • is the pain in a fixed location, or does it move; for example, from joint to joint or side to side?
  • how would you describe the pain; for example, acute, dull, throbbing, intermittent or cramping?
  • what contributed to the onset of pain, and when/how did it occur?
  • is there inflammation or a sensation of tingling or numbness?
  • do you experience sensations of cold or heat?
  • is the problem better or worse for movement, heat or cold, and specifically, what movements aggravate the problem further?
  • is the problem worse at specific points during the day or night?

The answers to all these questions are vital in ensuring that treatment is tailored specifically to you and the pain you are experiencing.

What does the research say?

Acupuncture for neck, shoulder and back pain:

Research shows that acupuncture performs at least as well as, and potentially better than, standard medical care for back pain (Cherkin, 2009; Haake, 2007; Sherman, 2009a; Witt, 2006). It is particularly beneficial as an alternative to conventional care for patients with more acute symptoms and those wishing to avoid analgesic drugs (Lewis 2010; Sherman 2009a, 2009b); for example, during pregnancy (Ee, 2008).

Acupuncture can help neck, shoulder and back pain by:

  • providing pain relief (Pomeranz, 1987; Zhao, 2008).
  • reducing inflammation (Kim, 2008; Kavoussi, 2007; Zijlstra, 2003).
  • improving joint mobility and muscle stiffness (Komori, 2009).
  • reducing the use of medication for back complaints (Thomas, 2006).
  • providing a more cost-effective treatment over an extended period (Radcliffe, 2006; Witt, 2006).
  • improving the outcome when used in addition to conventional treatments (Ammendolia, 2008; Yuan, 2008).

Acupuncture for other painful conditions:

Acupuncture may also provide pain relief from other similar neuromuscular issues for which pain relief may be limited. These include:

  • headaches
  • musculoskeletal pain (neck, back and joint pain)
  • fibromyalgia and chronic pain
  • post-operative pain
  • dental pain
  • sciatica
  • TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder)

NICE Guidelines:

Acupuncture for chronic (primary) pain, tension-type headaches and migraines:

In a significant change in pain treatment policy [NG193], in April 2021, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) stated that in future, doctors should advise sufferers to use physical and psychological therapies rather than analgesics to manage their pain. NICE now endorses acupuncture in the treatment of chronic pain and has stated that it proves more effective in managing chronic primary pain than analgesics.

NICE currently recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for primary chronic (long-term) pain. chronic tension-type headaches and migraines.

But what is NICE, and why does this matter?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) role is to provide national guidance and advice to the NHS and to improve health and well-being by putting science and evidence at the heart of health and care decision-making. It is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care and advises NHS policy.

Twenty-seven studies showed that acupuncture reduced pain and improved quality of life in the short term (up to 3 months) compared with usual care or sham acupuncture.

Are you experiencing neck, shoulder, back or lower back pain? Would you like to learn more about how acupuncture may be able to help you?

Can acupuncture help me?

There is much high-quality research suggesting that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of pain.

For the most up-to-date research and evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture, please visit the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) website.

If you would like to learn more about how acupuncture may be able to help you, please contact us today.


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“Ben has a fantastically calm manner, he is someone you immediately trust. He understands what you need and what you don’t know you need! He has helped completely cure a 3yr tendon problem as well as work on my overall well-being. I am very grateful I found his practice and have already recommended him to several friends.”

Lucy, London

“I cannot recommend Ben at Acupuncture West London enough. He is extremely knowledgeable, warm and friendly. The pain in my hip and lower back caused by sciatica has disappeared thanks to my sessions with him. The sessions have also worked on the emotional level, as well as the physical, and I experienced some profound healing through emotional release. I have also noticed my energy levels increase too. I would absolutely recommend visiting him.”i

Nikki, London

“I have played contact sport for many years and found Ben’s treatment in relation to back and hip pain to be have been very effective, with noticeable reduction in discomfort. The service is professional and considerate. Recommended.”

Sam, Dublin


  • Lewis K, Abdi S. Acupuncture for lower back pain: A review. Clinical Journal of Pain. 2010; 26(1)(pp 60-69)
  • Sherman KJ, Coeytaux RR. Acupuncture for the treatment of common pain conditions: Chronic back pain, osteoarthritis, and headache. Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management. 2009a; 16(5)(pp 224-230), 2009a
  • Yuan J, Purepong N, Kerr DP, Park J et al. Effectiveness of acupuncture for low back pain: a systematic review. Spine. 2008 Nov 1;33(23):E887-900
  • Ammendolia C, Furlan AD, Imamura M, Irvin E, van Tulder M. Evidence-informed management of chronic low back pain with needle acupuncture. Spine J. 2008 Jan-Feb;8(1):160-72
  • Ee CC, Manheimer E, Pirotta MV, White AR. Acupuncture for pelvic and back pain in pregnancy: a systematic review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008; 198(3):254-9
  • Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Avins AL, Erro JH, et al. A randomized trial comparing acupuncture, simulated acupuncture, and usual care for chronic low back pain. Arch Intern Med. 2009; 169(9):858-66
  • Haake M, Maller HH, Schade-Brittinger C, Basler HD, et al. German Acupuncture Trials (GERAC) for chronic low back pain: randomized, multicenter, blinded, parallel-group trial with 3 groups. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Sep 24;167(17):1892-8
  • Ratcliffe J, Thomas KJ, MacPherson H, Brazier J. A randomised controlled trial of acupuncture care for persistent low back pain: cost effectiveness analysis, BMJ. 2006 Sep 23;333(7569):626
  • Sherman KJ., Cherkin DC, Ichikawa L, Avins AL et al. Characteristics of patients with chronic back pain who benefit from acupuncture. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2009b; 10(1): article 114
  • Witt CM, Jena S, Selim D, Brinkhaus B et al. Pragmatic randomized trial evaluating the clinical and economic effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic low back pain. Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Sep 1;164(5):487-96
  • Thomas KJ, MacPherson H, Thorpe L, Brazier J et al. Randomised controlled trial of a short course of traditional acupuncture compared with usual care for persistent non-specific low back pain. BMJ. 2006 Sep 23;333(7569):623
  • Weidenhammer W, Linde K, Streng A, Hoppe A, Melchart D. Acupuncture for chronic low back pain in routine care: a multicenter observational study. Clin J Pain. 2007 Feb;23(2):128-35
  • Kavoussi B, Ross BE. The neuroimmune basis of anti-inflammatory acupuncture. Integr Cancer Ther. 2007 Sep;6(3):251-7
  • Kim HW, Uh DK, Yoon SY, Roh DH et al. Low-frequency electroacupuncture suppresses carrageenan-induced paw inflammation in mice via sympathetic post-ganglionic neurons, while high-frequency EA suppression is mediated by the sympathoadrenal medullary axis. Brain Res Bull. 2008 Mar 28;75(5):698-705
  • Komori M, Takada K, Tomizawa Y, Nishiyama K, et al. Microcirculatory responses to acupuncture stimulation and phototherapy. Anesth Analg. 2009 Feb;108(2):635-40
  • Pomeranz B. Scientific basis of acupuncture. In: Stux G, Pomeranz B, eds. Acupuncture Textbook and Atlas. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag; 1987:1-18
  • Zhao ZQ. Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia. Prog Neurobiol. 2008 Aug;85(4):355-75
  • Zijlstra FJ, van den Berg-de Lange I, Huygen FJ, Klein J. Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture. Mediators Inflamm. 2003 Apr;12(2):59-69

Comment ( 1 )

  • Jailhouse Jimbo

    I’ve had acupuncture for back pain. Worked great for me.

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