Acupuncture For Back Pain
Back Pain Management
Types of back pain
There are several common causes of back pain. One of them is a herniated vertebral disc, which happens when one of the discs (located between two vertebrae in the spine) bulges outward. Another cause of back pain (as well as pain in areas of the lower body such as the buttocks and legs) is sciatica. This is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve in the spine. Sprains are another origin of back pain. They occur when a ligament is overstretched. Finally, there are strains. These happen when a muscle is torn. Below we’ll look at the benefits of acupuncture for back pain.
Types of Back Pain in Traditional Chinese Medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine, back pain (as well as other conditions) are partitioned into different types, or patterns. A few common types of conditions that cause pain are Deficiency, Qi and Blood stagnation, and Cold Damp Obstruction.
Deficiency pain is common in the elderly and middle-aged. The pain is dull and chronic, and often improves with rest and relaxation.
Stagnation pain is caused by under-use (stagnation) of muscles. Therefore, it will become worse with rest and relaxation. This is typically a stabbing sensation, and more painful than a Deficiency condition. Sometimes this type of pain accompanies sprains and strains.
Cold Damp Obstruction pain is worsened (as the name suggests) by cold and damp conditions, often in the weather. Intuitively, it can be improved by applying heat to the effected areas. This type of pain can involve swelling and numbness.
Traditional Chinese Medicine as a Treatment for Patients with Back Pain
The focus of traditional Chinese medicine is the restoration balance to the body’s energy. The balancing of energy promotes healing of damage and increase in overall health. Acupuncture is one of the most common and effective means of restoring balance to alleviate back pain.
Acupuncture for patients with back pain is fairly simple. Needles may be places directly at the site of the condition, or at areas where there is no pain at all. These are referred to as “local” and “distal” needles, respectively. Even needles which are placed nowhere near the effected area provide excellent results. Sometimes an Acupuncturist may simply place needles at the areas of the patient’s body which are found to be the most sensitive. Herbs, cupping, and electric stimulation of acupuncture points may be used alongside the acupuncture itself. Most often, it is best to have regular and frequent sessions when the pain is high, and to ease off of acupuncture as the pain recedes.
Injury and Post-Operative Pain
Acupuncture, often along with herbal medicine, specific exercises and massages, and an altered diet, can help individuals who are suffering from pain due to an injury, want to avoid a potential surgery, or want to quickly recover post-operation.
Customized combinations of treatments can be done to optimize one’s potential to quickly recover from various conditions including auto accident pain, work related pain or injuries, pain or injuries from sports, or post-operative pain from orthopedic, gynecological, oral, cosmetic, or any number of other kinds of surgeries.
In traditional Chinese medicine, these kinds of injuries are viewed as traumas to the muscles and soft tissues, resulting in disruption of the body’s healing processes and natural flow of energy.
Acupuncture as Applied to Injury and Post-Operative Pain
In traditional Chinese medicine, trauma results in imbalances in the body and blockages in the flow of blood and qi, or energy. Acupuncture and other traditional Chinese practices work to restore balance and remove blockages.
Trauma and recovery have both physical and psychological aspects to them. Trauma taken from both injury and surgery causes pain, inflammation, swelling, and other conditions depending on the area of the body effected. Pain may even sometimes cause a patient to overuse or become addicted to pain medication (another benefit of using Acupuncture). The trauma may also lead to mental and emotional problems, resulting in conditions such as anxiety, nausea, constipation, vomiting, headache, fatigue, and others that may not seem to have anything to do with the physical damage itself.
Acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medical strategies can be used to significantly help in injury and post-operative rehabilitation. Benefits include but are not limited to:
Decrease in post-operative pain (McDonald & Janz 2017)
Reduced need for medication (Wu et al. 2016)
Reduced post-operative nausea and vomiting (McDonald & Janz 2017)
Improvement in digestion and reduction of stress following an operation can facilitate a faster and better recovery. Acupuncture’s widely accepted stress reducing capabilities may also help ease pre-operative apprehension.
McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised Edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd; 2017
Wu, M.S., Chen, K.H., Chen, I.F., Huang, S.K., Tzeng, P.C., Yeh, M.L., Lee. F.P., Lin, J.G., Chen, C. 2016, ‘The Efficacy of Acupuncture in Post-Operative Pain Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’, PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 3.