The Pain: Lower Backaches
You tried: Acupuncture
Likely mistake: You weren't convinced it would work, and after two disappointing visits, you never went back.
Get the most out of your treatment: Small studies showed that acupuncture could boost the effectiveness of conventional treatments; a larger study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that it could be even more effective than conventional treatments at relieving chronic low-back pain—but so could a "sham" technique involving toothpicks. And then there are several-centuries-worth of satisfied Chinese patients. Two things seem to work in acupuncture's favor, says Larry R. Bergstrom, MD, director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine program at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona: a non-anxious receptiveness to the treatment, as well as a commitment to multiple visits.
Keep in mind: Western practitioners tend to use needles to address a specific problem, theorizing that this treatment works in part by stimulating the release of endorphins and activating nerves to interrupt pain signals. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the needles relieve blockages in the body's pathways and restore the general flow of energy. Try both approaches to see what works best for you.