Back pain is a very common problem – one that will strike 4 out of 5 Americans at some time in their lives. In fact, it’s one of the top reasons people seek medical care. Unfortunately, back pain isn’t always easy to diagnose or relieve. Low back pain in particular can become a chronic or ongoing problem.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are very effective in treating back pain naturally. They can also be used together with traditional Western treatments to maximize your healing and recovery.
How back pain happens
There are many possible causes for back pain, including strained muscles or ligaments, often caused by improper lifting, sudden movements or traumatic injury. Other culprits can include arthritis, structural abnormalities of the spine, or the disks between the vertebrae bulging or rupturing and pressing on a nerve. Depending on the specific diagnosis, back pain is generally treated with medications, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and in some cases, surgery.
A more natural approach
Practitioners of acupuncture and TCM view back pain another way. An acupuncturist will not only work to relieve your symptoms, but will also work to find and treat the underlying cause of your pain. In a study conducted at a Swedish hospital, doctors concluded that acupuncture provided long-term relief along with improvements in physical activity levels, quality of sleep and the diminished use of pain medication.
Acupuncture and TCM are based on the concept that Qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy, flows through the body in channels called meridians. If Qi becomes stagnant, unbalanced or deficient, symptoms such as back pain, ache and inflammation can result. This can happen for any number of reasons, from injury and illness to stress or external invaders such as wind or dampness. Back pain can arise from disharmonies such as:
• Stagnation – type pain that is often linked to sudden, stabbing, severe pain and related to sprains, strains or trauma. It can be accompanied by stiffness and tightness and becomes worse with rest. If it occurs often in the same area(s) it may reflect an underlying deficiency.
• Cold, damp obstruction – type pain that is generally worse in the morning and exacerbated by cold or damp weather. This type of pain condition may be associated with numbness, swelling and a sense of “heaviness.” Heat improves this condition.
• Deficiency – type pain that is usually a chronic condition that presents with a “dull” pain and improves with rest.
Once your practitioner has determined the cause(s) of your back pain, he or she will create a specific treatment plan designed to address your concerns and boost your overall health and vitality. During acupuncture treatments, your practitioner will insert fine, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points along the meridian pathways in order to restore the balance and flow of Qi. He or she may also perform acupressure or other types of therapy, based on your unique issues and symptoms.
Your practitioner may also suggest lifestyle changes and self-care techniques, especially if you struggle with chronic pain. These may include:
• Improving your posture – Examine your posture in a mirror. Try to stand with your head up, shoulders back and pelvis in a neutral position. When sitting, try to sit upright with your feet flat on the floor and your knees and hips level. Try to balance your weight evenly when walking and standing.
• Exercising – Keep your back and abdominal muscles strong with regular exercise. Yoga and Qi Gong are both gentle and effective. Consider adding aerobic exercise as well to improve your overall health and reduce stress.
• Managing stress – Stress can take a real toll on your health and contribute to muscle pain. Meditation or deep-breathing techniques can help you stay calm and relaxed. Massage is another great way to help relieve stress and loosen tense muscles.
More and more people are finding relief for both acute and chronic back pain through acupuncture and TCM. If you or someone you love is struggling with back pain, call today to find out how acupuncture can help.
Research Update: Acupuncture and Pain Management
The researchers looked at multiple trials to determine that acupuncture shows great promise in relieving chronic low back pain. The trials were inconclusive about acupuncture for acute low back pain. Since chronic low back pain is more common, it makes sense the majority of the trials scrutinized found more evidence to support acupuncture usage for this condition.
Pain affects everybody at some point in their lives. It may be either acute or chronic. But regardless of the type of pain, it can be debilitating. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 100 million Americans have suffered from pain that lasts more than 24 hours and millions more suffer from acute pain. Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability in the United States also, which ultimately affects not only the pain sufferer, but also those around him or her.
Many people go to see their regular doctor when they have pain. Many more go to the emergency room. But the treatments received don’t always provide relief. Everything from pain pills to surgery may be suggested to help pain sufferers. And because of over-prescription of pain medications, there is now an epidemic in the United States. Opioids, one class of prescription painkillers, has turned into a legitimate killer, causing more and more people to overdose and die. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is estimated that nearly 2.1 million people in the U.S. are suffering from substance abuse disorders directly related to opioid pain relievers.
This is where acupuncture comes in. Acupuncture is part of a nearly 3,000 year old medical system known as Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture uses hair-thin needles to stimulate specific pressure points on the body. By invigorating these points, the brain is triggered to release endorphins, which are natural painkillers. The energy within the body is also moved and adjusted. According to TCM medical theory, when the energy is blocked or weak, then pain and illness can attack the body.
One of the advantages of utilizing acupuncture to treat pain is the acupuncturist doesn’t need to diagnose the cause of the pain before treating it. Since acupuncture has no real adverse side effects when performed by a qualified and professionally licensed practitioner, pain relief can begin the very first time a patient is treated.
The treatments are very customizable because this medicine is not a “one size fits all” type of solution. This means that as the pain shifts and changes, the patient will receive customized treatments that not only address the pain and inflammation, but they also work on resolving the root of the problem. Most patients who are dealing with pain also have added stress, insomnia and depression or anxiety. Acupuncture is great at treating all of these conditions. So the patient gets more than just pain relief.
Acupuncture is so effective at treating and relieving pain now showing up in hospitals and emergency rooms. In fact, Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota is now successfully using acupuncture in its emergency room to treat conditions ranging from car accident injuries to kidney stones. Their initial results show pain scores are just as low with acupuncture as they are with those given analgesic painkillers. Another positive action regarding the utilization of acupuncture came just recently. The Food and Drug Administration released proposed changes that plan to educate health care providers about treating pain. The new guidelines recommend doctors get information about acupuncture and suggest it to their patients before prescribing opioids.
With these kinds of recommendations and testimonials, it is hard to believe only about 10 percent of Americans have ever tried acupuncture. But that statistic is slowly changing as more and more people are seeking natural and alternative methods of dealing with pain and disease. Why not check it out for yourself? Contact me to find out more information.