Back pain is one of the most prevalent reasons people seek health care in this country. Millions of working days and countless hours of activity and fun are lost each year due to back pain. Therefore, I want to devote several posts to: Causes of Back Pain; Traditional Chinese Medicine Patterns of Back Pain; TCM Treatment of Back Pain; and Acupuncture Research Studies on Back Pain.
4 Common Causes of Back Pain
These are the most common conditions that bring people in for TCM and acupuncture treatment.
1. sprain – overstretching one or more of the ligaments in the back
2. strain – a rip or tear in the muscle caused by sudden force. This can happen from an injury, poor posture, or improper lifting
3. herniated disc – disc that bulges out from its position between two vertebrae
4. sciatica – pain that extends down into the buttocks and leg. It comes from an
irritation of a larger nerve in the lumbar spine called the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can accompany sprains, strains, herniated discs as well as
Traditional Chinese Medicine Patterns of Back Pain
Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) vocabulary is very different from Western medicine. TCM differentiates patterns of back pain.
Common TCM Patterns include:
-Deficiency type pain
-Qi and Blood stagnation
-Pain due to Cold Damp Obstruction
Pain that results from deficiency is usually dull, chronic, and improves with rest. It is more common in middle aged and elderly people. Pain from stagnation is more severe and stabbing in nature. There is stiffness and tightness in the muscles and it worsens with rest. Often this type is seen in occurrences of acute sprains and strains. It can reoccur chronically, thereby indicating an underlying deficiency. Pain from cold damp obstruction is worse in the morning, exacerbated by cold and damp weather. It improves with heat and may be accompanied by numbness, swelling and a sense of heaviness.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment of Back Pain
TCM works to restore harmony and energetic balance to the body which, in turn, stimulates natural healing and promotes health. Acupuncture
is one of the primary modalities used to accomplish this balance. Treatment is customized to each individual patient.
I treat back pain with acupuncture, using both local (at the site of pain) and distal (away from the area of pain) points for needle placement. Distal points are very important, especially in acute pain because I can stay away from the ground zero of your pain. Often, needles can be placed in areas other than your back, and you can experience excellent and quick relief. When I work directly on your back, there are many local points I use. I palpate your body to find the most sensitive spots and needle those. In conjunction with acupuncture, I may include other treatments, such as: electric stimulation of points and cupping. This decision depends of you and your type pain. Generally, it is advisable to have frequent treatment initially and taper off as the pain diminishes. Herbs can also be helpful in moving blood, reducing inflammation and strengthening a deficient condition.