Acupuncture for Disc Herniation (Slipped Disc)

Slipped DiscA hernited disc is where the soft jelly like material between the spinal vertebra bulges out resulting in back pain. It is most commonly caused by over lifting. When the nerves coming out of the spine become compressed by the protruding disc, pain results. This pain can very severe and depending on the severity of the bulge, surgery is often the only solution that western medicine has to offer. Acupuncturists have been treating this condition for centuries and of  course did  not know that the disc had actually protruded.

This is because ancient physicians did not have access to MRI and X-Ray machines 2000 years ago ! But they did observe and understand that certain back injuries resulted in pain as well as numbness affecting certain parts of the leg and developed appropriate treatments to relieve this.  Modern China has made much advancement in the treatment of disc herniation with acupuncture and the rate of surgery for disc herniation is in fact much lower in China than in the west.

The cost effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for disc herniation verses surgery and the additional associated rehabilitation costs has been observed in China for some decades. The ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) in New Zealand does cover an initial course of acupuncture for this condition but unfortunately most patients are still recommended to follow the surgery process. There is quite some time involved in waiting to have the recommended surgery when a number of courses of acupuncture could have actually eliminated the need for surgery in many instances.

Recent research in China confirmed that acupuncture in conjunction with related traditional Chinese medicine modalities such as tui na (Chinese massage) worked better than drug therapy for pain relief. In particular electro-acupuncture which involves connecting a small electric current to the needles is regarded as the foremost treatment method to relieve pain and promote rejuvenation.

Modern diagnostic techniques are now able to find the exact location of the protrusion which has led to modern acupuncture physicians using another treatment known as  moxibustion. This where a special herb called mugwort is heated and held directly over the location of the disc involved. In traditional Chinese medical terms this increases energy and blood circulation to the area to stimulate a healing response. In western medicine, they do the exact opposite, and try to cool the area down using ice or prescribe anti-inflammatories.

Ancient Chinese physicians observed that the natural response to an injury like a slipped disc resulted in heat naturally occurring in the area. Modern science has actually shown that such an injury generates heat because of the inflammation response which then causes more stem cells to flow to the area to stimulate the healing process. Ironically western medicine then intervenes and provides treatment that is against the natural law of order. By prescribing anti inflammatory medication, the they are  actually discouraging stem cells to go to the area to heal the condition.  Western medical treatment is aimed at only reducing pain.  Acupuncture is focused on stimulating healing and rejuvenation of the area and reduction of pain is a side effect.

In New Zealand the government owned insurance company, ACC, allows up to 20 acupuncture visits to be funded in the treatment of herniated discs. Acupuncturists working from The Acupuncture Clinic in Napier and Masterton  are members of the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists  and hence are fully  accredited ACC treatment providers for acupuncture.

About Heiko Lade

Hi, I'm Heiko Lade - qualified acupuncturist at The Acupuncture Clinic in Napier, New Zealand. If you would like to make an appointment for a consultation and treatment, please contact me.


  1. hi doc, i hv faced L4/L5 disc herniation from 3 months.
    i hv pain snd numbness in right thigh.rit now taking acupressure treatment. 6 sessions over not feeling
    better. what do you suggest?

  2. mohammed tabrez says:

    Respected sir iam from India , I have disc protusion problem in l3-4,l4-5 ,l5-s1 since from 4 years and iam 24 years old and tried lots of orthopeodic doctors medicine treatments it doesn’t work doctors all are saying that three discs are totally damaged i must need to do a surgery but I don’t want to do a surgery my pain is increasing more also iam feeling numbness in both legs ,I have still bladder nd bowel control .please give me good suggestion .iam single nd recently I completed my engineering i need to go abroad to do a job after tht to get marry with somone however if I get well soon please tell me wht should i do either I go for an accupuncture treatment or surgery

  3. I am effected slip disc last 10 month,I am face right foot stiffness,pain,and my problems large at towheelar driving. Please guide me my problems help acupuncture?

  4. My question is…how often should I do accupuncture if it

  5. Hello doctor,
    I am suffering from herniated disc since last six months.
    I got treatment from an orthopedic surgeon but it didn’t help.
    I ask the doctor if I can go for the acupuncture but he says no. If I go for that my problem will increase and then I must go for surgery which I dont want to go for.
    Please advise me. What should I do?

    • Hi Siraj
      If you don’t want surgery, I suggest try acupuncture and moxibustion.

      • I limp to a tcm for electroacupuncture n suction cup and walk out from the clinic. Surprisingly I am a Chinese but I try it after getting info from a western guy who advised on this. Never know it was a real miracle. Try to avoid surgery until last last last resort

      • Heiko thank you for saving many people from the knives. God bless you.

        • I don’t know how many times surgery has been cancelled after acupuncture has helped resolve the herniated disc.

  6. chaminda says:

    can acupuncture repair the damage disc or only relief the pain
    please answer me. because I am undergoing acupuncture treatments in sri lanka

    • Heiko Lade says:

      Yes it can help repair the disc, that is the aim of the treatment.

    • Hello doc I am suffering from slip disc from last one year now I am totally fed up .I don’t know what’s going on .having continuous pain no relief I want to die I Cant bare any more.please suggest me what can I do .?

  7. Hello doctor. I have degenerative disc disease in my thoracic and lumbar spine, as week as a herniated disc in l5/s1 and t9/t10, plus arthritis in my spine and hips. Could you explain exactly how acupuncture would help this? Like dies it release chemicals, stimulate nerves, etc. just curious, thanks!

  8. hi doc i m sufring frm slip disk having pain in my both legs due to L4&L5 disk..
    i have completed my four acupunture therapy but i m still in pain not feeling better frm this treatment.
    will u help me how i can get rid of this pain..

    • Ahmad, it is difficult more me to advise you. As a general rule in my experience it may take 20 sessions or more to treat a herniated disc. It depends on the severity of the herniation, your age, the experience and training of the acupuncturist etc. I personally find the use of moxibustion paramount for this condition.

  9. Acupuncture ROCKS! I was diagnosed with 2 herniations in my lower back after trauma to the spine (knocked from bike) and then lifting boxes. Suffering terrible pain after sleeping at night I tried acunpuncture. I was pretty miserable, had to cancel overseas holiday and was booked for a steroid pain injection. Surgery would be next option. Heiko was lovely and he treated me to the point where my bubbly self is back and I no longer have the terrible pain down my leg! Wouldn’t it be marvellous if patients could be diverted to acupuncture as a FIRST call to heal herniations and to save our health dollar! I don’t believe anyone wants back surgery when there is this fantastic health option.

    • Yes Bethne, the cost saving to ACC (and your ACC levies) would be dramatic. I have treated herniated discs that were booked in for surgery and then the patients cancelled the surgery. Results speak for themselves, its trying to inform the powers to be that is the challenge.

  10. Hello doc is acupuncture is permanent solution of slip disk ?????

    • Heiko Lade says:

      Hi Arjun, if the acupuncture has prevented surgery and the patient is no longer in pain, does not have numbness and resumes normal activities, I would regard this as close to a permanent solution.

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