Chronic back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical attention. Millions of work days and countless hours of activity and fun are lost each year due to this malady. It is estimated that nearly 80% of the people in United States will be affected by back pain sometime in their life.
There are several common medical causes of back pain; the most common is caused by lumbar muscle strain. Although this is the most common form of lower back pain, often patients do not remember the initial event that triggered their muscle spasm. This type of back pain will usually completely resolve itself within a relatively short period of time.
A ruptured intervertebral disc, often referred to as a herniated disc, is also a very common cause of back pain. In this case, the disc that sits between the vertebrae bulges out of its place, creating pain. Back pain of this nature often takes longer to heal and may become chronic.Spinal stenosis is a fairly common occurrence as we age. As we age the spinal canal can become constricted possibly due to arthritis and other conditions. If the spinal canal becomes too tight, back pain can be the result.
The most common type of arthritis usually affects joints such as the knees and fingers. However, arthritis can affect any joint in the body including the small joints of the spine creating pain with any type of movement or activity.
Acupuncture’s vocabulary is very different from Western medicine. There are actually several different patterns of back pain.
Liver Qi Stagnation. According to acupuncture theory, Qi (the body’s vital energy) must flow freely without any restriction for health to be abundant. The liver organ governs the free flow of Qi in all areas of the body including the back. Any blockage or stagnation to the free flow of this energy in the back will result in pain and stiffness. In cases where the back pain reoccurs chronically, this can indicate an underlying problem with the stagnation of Qi.
Kidney Deficiency. In acupuncture theory, the kidney and bladder meridians govern the back. When there is a Qi deficiency in Kidney Yin or Kidney Yang, this may create a negative effect on the posterior of the body resulting in weakness, stiffness and/or pain in the back.
Blood stagnation in the lower back. A severe form of stabbing pain in the lower back upon movement or rest, can be the result of blood stagnation in the lower back. This is usually a result of long-term Qi stagnation which eventually causes the flow of blood in the affected area to become blocked. Since Qi is also responsible for the movement of blood in the body, the longer that Qi stagnation occurs, the more likely blood stagnation will take place. Blood stagnation in the lower back may present itself as a result of physical issues such as injury due to a trauma, exposure to cold wind, overwork, or emotional issues such as long-term stress.
Invasion of Wind Cold. Acupuncture believes that the kidneys are susceptible to invasion of wind cold or damp cold. This may occur when the lower back is frequently exposed to cold or damp weather resulting in depletion of the Kidney Yang energies. This can create stagnation of Qi in the affected area and is differentiated from other types of back pain by symptoms such as feeling of cold or tightness in the lower back and low-energy.
Most of the patients that we see suffering with back pain have tried many different modalities without much success. Most respond to acupuncture treatments very well and see a difference in their pain levels fairly quickly. Each patient is unique with many different variables involved, such as the length of time the problem has been with them, their age, their individual speed of healing, the severity of the injury as well as the location of their injury and the intensity of their pain.
The use of acupuncture to treat back pain has increased dramatically in the past few years, largely due to word-of-mouth successes in patients who have tried acupuncture. Acupuncture works to restore the harmony and energetic balance in the body which stimulates the body’s own natural healing ability. In the hands of a skilled acupuncturist, acupuncture can be a great way of eliminating back pain.