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.

Content loading spinner

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 as part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. An acupuncturist inserts thin, sterile needles into your body at specific points. These needles stimulate the release of natural chemicals in the nervous system like endorphins. This has been shown to help: 

  • Reduce and relieve the sense of pain.
  • Heal injured areas. 

In Chinese medicine, this process is used to restores the flow of vital life energy, or “qi” (pronounced “chee”). 

Acupuncture can be helpful for treating: 

  • Headaches
  • Low back, knee, or shoulder pain
  • Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy or due to chemotherapy (cancer treatment)
  • Shingles pain
  • Surgical pain
  • Opioid withdrawal

Acupuncture is now used in Western medicine, including at Kaiser Permanente. We may recommend it as part of a combined approach for managing chronic pain. 

What to Expect

Each person responds differently to acupuncture. Some people may feel: 

  • Better right away
  • No change
  • A temporary increase in pain 

It usually takes about 3 to 4 sessions to know if acupuncture is helping you. 

Also, acupuncture may help reduce pain and other symptoms for hours, days, or weeks. The relief may last a long time, or it may be temporary. 

While acupuncture is a very safe and drug-free way to ease your symptoms, it’s often most effective when used with other pain management methods.

Before Your Procedure

We recommend that you eat a lite meal before your appointment and wear comfortable clothes. We’ll ask you about your medical history and lifestyle, including: 

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

If you have certain medical conditions, we may need to postpone treatment. These conditions include: 

  • Seizures
  • High fever
  • Untreated cancer
  • Infectious illness

How It Is Performed

Your first session may last between 30 and 60 minutes. We may ask you to change into a patient gown, depending on where the needles will be placed on your body. We’ll then have you sit or lie down.

Each acupuncture point relates to a symptom, condition, or function of the body. You may have needles in several areas. 

Inserting the needles

We gently tap the needles to insert them through the skin. The needles are made of very thin and sterile surgical-grade stainless steel. We use new needles for each visit and do not reuse them. 

Most people do not feel any pain when the needles are inserted. You may feel one or more mild sensations while the needles are in your skin, including: 

  • Pressure
  • Warmth
  • Tingling 

The needles remain in place for about 20 to 30 minutes. 

We may also:

  • Gently vibrate the needles.
  • Connect the needles to a mild electrical current for stronger stimulation. We can adjust the level to keep you comfortable.  

During treatment, some people:

  • Enjoy listening to relaxing music
  • Prefer quiet
  • Fall asleep

After each session, we’ll ask you to rest.

Who Performs the Acupuncture?

Licensed Acupuncturists (L.Ac.) or medical doctors with specialized training in acupuncture provide the treatment. 

These acupuncturists are licensed by the California Department of Consumer Affairs after passing a rigorous exam.

Side Effects

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

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising at the insertion sites
  • Soreness or minor pain
  • Feeling faint or lightheaded
  • Nerve damage, which is usually temporary and more likely to occur with specific acupuncture points

There is also a slight risk of infection. We use a new package of sterile needles and then discard them, so the risk of infection is low.

Related Health Tools:

Interactive Programs

See more Health Tools »

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.

Content loading spinner