Natural Living: Low-back pain and acupuncture

Man in office uniform having back pain issue / back injury

Man in office uniform having back pain issue / back injury

Back pain is the second most common reason patients visit a doctor and approximately 80 percent of the U.S. adult population will suffer an acute episode of disabling back pain in their lifetime. Unfortunately, low-back pain can become a chronic or ongoing problem.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are effective in treating back pain naturally. They can also be used together with traditional Western treatments to maximize one’s healing and recovery.

According to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people suffering from chronic low-back pain who received acupuncture fared better than those receiving only conventional care.

Another study conducted by researchers from the University of Regensberg in Germany found in trials among 1,100 patients with chronic lower back pain which had lasted for an average of eight years, almost half (47 percent) of those who received acupuncture showed significant improvement — compared with barely a quarter (27 percent) of those given conventional treatment. The effects lasted for at least six months, long after the treatment was completed.

Perhaps the most important finding to date of acupuncture’s use to treat low-back pain is the findings of Otzi the Iceman, a 5,300-year-old frozen corpse found in a glacier on the border of Italy and Austria in 1991. According to scientists, Otzi used a form of acupuncture for osteoarthritis of his lumbar spine.

Acupuncture treats most forms of back pain. In TCM, acupuncture treats both the “symptom and the root” of back pain. This means the pain symptoms are relieved while the root cause of the pain heals. Acupuncture reduces pain and inflammation associated with disc disease, neuralgia, sciatica, muscle strain, spinal stenosis, compression fractures, misalignments, arthritis, surgery and trauma. Simultaneously, acupuncture restores normal parasympathetic nerve impulses to the affected regions such that the body is capable of producing the normal chemistry required for the healing of internal tissues and nerve fibers. The National Institutes of Health confirms this success in an important U.S. government report (NIH Consensus Statement, v15, #5, 1997; p19).

The “root” in Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine are looked at differently. In TCM treatment is given on the basis of the patient’s pattern and not simply on the basis of the named disease. A practitioner diagnosing the pattern(s) takes into account all the person’s symptoms, not just the ones that are specific to their major complaint. In fact, the TCM practitioner gathers so much information, the patient may not see the relevance of it all.

In Chinese Medicine back pain can arise from disharmonies such as:

Stagnation-type pain that’s 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’s 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.”

Deficiency-type pain that’s usually a chronic condition that presents with a “dull” pain and improves with rest.

Once practitioners diagnose which pattern is affecting the patient they will devise a plan and perform usually at least 10 sessions of acupuncture over 5-10 weeks. They will also make recommendations on improving posture, exercising and managing stress.


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