Within the last 10 years, the percentage of low back pain (LBP) prevalence increased by 18%. The management and high cost of LBP put a tremendous burden on the healthcare system. Many risk factors have been identified, such as lifestyle, trauma, degeneration, postural impairment, and occupational related factors; however, as high as 95% of the cases of LBP are non-specific. Currently, LBP is treated pharmacologically. Approximately 25 to 30% of the patients develop serious side effects, such as drowsiness and drug addiction. Spinal surgery often does not result in a massive improvement of pain relief. Therefore, complementary approaches are being integrated into the rehabilitation programs. These include chiropractic therapy, physiotherapy, massage, exercise, herbal medicine and acupuncture. Acupuncture for LBP is one of the most commonly used non-pharmacological pain-relieving techniques. This is due to its low adverse effects and cost-effectiveness. Currently, many randomized controlled trials and clinical research studies have produced promising results. In this article, the causes and incidence of LBP on global health care are reviewed. The importance of treatment by acupuncture is considered. The efforts to reveal the link between acupuncture points and anatomical features and the neurological mechanisms that lead to acupuncture-induced analgesic effect are reviewed.
Keywords: acupuncture; adenosine; adenosine triphosphate (ATP); anti-nociceptive; low back pain (LBP); mechanism of acupuncture; purinergic receptors.