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Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Some people prefer treatment options that complement traditional medicine such as acupuncture or herbal supplements that can help you stay healthy, feel better, and manage medical problems safely. To ensure the best possible treatment, please talk to us about your options.


Acupuncture has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years as one part of traditional Chinese medicine. In recent years, acupuncture has been used increasingly in Western medical settings, including at Kaiser Permanente.

An acupuncturist inserts thin needles into your body at specific points. The traditional theory is that these needles stimulate key points in the body and remove obstacles to the flow of the vital life energy, called qi or chi (pronounced "chee"). Free-flowing chi removes disease and supports health, according to Chinese medical beliefs. 

For some people, acupuncture can help reduce pain for hours, days, or weeks. The relief may last a long time but is usually temporary. Acupuncture is one way to reduce pain while you learn other ways to manage your pain.

How Acupuncture Works

Your acupuncturist may perform a physical exam or ask you about your lifestyle habits and your problem(s) including:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Stress levels
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Pain
  • Other problems

Small, thin needles will be placed at specific locations on your body, just under your skin. These are usually left in place for up to 20 minutes. You will lie still during this time and relax. Some people fall asleep during acupuncture treatments.

The needles usually do not hurt, but if they do, tell the acupuncturist right away. Most people feel only a slight sensation as the needles go in. Many feel no pain at all.

Once the needles are removed, the acupuncturist may give you information for self-care including:

  • Acupressure
  • Stretching
  • Exercise
  • Relaxation

People Who Benefit from Acupuncture

Research shows that acupuncture may help people with nausea and vomiting. It has also been shown to improve chronic pain, especially musculoskeletal pain. While there are many other studies being done, there is no scientific research yet to show the benefit of acupuncture for other conditions.

You and your acupuncturist will generally know if acupuncture is helping you within 4 or 5 treatment sessions. When it does help, you may feel the effects right away, or it may take time.

Additional References:


Acupuncture is generally safe, but there are risks, side effects, and sometimes complications as with any medical procedure. The risks are rare but include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising at the insertion sites
  • Soreness or minor pain
  • Feeling faint or light-headed

At Kaiser Permanente, sterile needles are used only once and then discarded so the risk of infection is small. If you are bleeding after a treatment, let your acupuncturist know.

When to call Kaiser Permanente

Please call us if you've had acupuncture treatment and you experience:

  • Bleeding at the needle site that will not stop
  • Redness, swelling, or signs of infection at the needle site
Additional References:

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If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

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