Kaufman: Acupuncture and back pain
Lower back pain is a common complaint that we see often at the acupuncture clinic.
It is most commonly attributed to chronic ligament strain, spinal degeneration or osteoarthritis, or a prolapsed lumbar disc, problems that can be aggravated by a modern lifestyle that may involve a lot of sitting, or heavy strain from physical work or exercise.
Treatment can include pain medication, chiropractic to realign the vertebrae, massage therapy to relax the muscles, and physiotherapy to correct posture and strengthen the muscles. Surgery may also be considered in severe cases.
Acupuncture can thankfully give very positive results to lower back pain sufferers, partly because Chinese medicine brings quite a different approach to the treatment of lower back pain, and one that is very effective.
Back pain in Chinese medicine can be due to a number of factors that either make the back more susceptible to pain or lead to the pain itself, the most common being a weakness of the kidneys, causing a lack of nourishment of the lower back and spine.
The kidneys have a strong influence on the strength and nourishment of the tissue and bones of the lower back area so we always look at the strength of the kidneys when treating back pain, and what may be causing a kidney weakness.
It is common for back pain to have a number of causes which create different kinds of pain.
The type of pain that is experienced often tells the acupuncturist the underlying cause of the pain and helps point towards the proper diagnosis for treatment.
Invasion of cold and/or damp in the low back area can be a factor.
It is usually due to improper protection of the lower back during cold and damp weather, which allows the cold and dampness to invade and block the flow of energy and blood circulation.
This type of low back pain is experienced with pain that is worse in the morning, better with exercise, better with heat, and worse when weather is cold and damp.
Back pain due to stagnation of qi (energy) and blood is usually caused by an acute sprain or in chronic conditions, repeated sprain and underlying kidney weakness. Excessive physical work and over-lifting can often lead to this type of pain. Back pain due to qi and blood stagnation is characterized by pain that is severe and stabbing, which gets worse with rest and better with light exercise.
The area will be tender to the touch and there will be stiffness of the back muscles and inability to flex, extend or turn the waist.
Because the kidneys have an important function in the creation of energy, general overwork can also lead to chronic pain due to the constant drain on the kidneys’ energy, leading to an overall kidney weakness.
Chronic back pain due to kidney weakness is usually dull and comes in bouts. It is better with rest and worse when a person is tired.
This type of weakness creates a further vulnerability for an invasion of cold and damp or sprains.
These are just a few examples of how Chinese Medicine diagnoses lower back pain. Acupuncture can help to remove blockage in the lower back area which cause pain and weakness, and to stimulate and strengthen weak and depleted kidneys to aid their function of nourishing the tissues of the lower back.
Treatment targets many internal factors, the goal being not only to alleviate the pain, but also to effectively resolve chronic conditions and strengthen the body to prevent future pain from arising.