“I used to walk around gritting my teeth,” said Philip Cassata of Fort Myers.

That was life before acupuncture — a life eked out under a cloud of pain caused mainly by spinal degeneration. The former Air Force medical corpsman had grown up around construction trades with his father, then spent long hours standing on hard floors as a school principal. He maintained an active life throughout, whether bicycling or skiing, but at 75, pain was a constant companion.

He is one of uncountable Southwest Floridians who deal with chronic pain, which so often strikes in the back.

Low back pain like Cassata’s is the most common reason for job-related disability in the United States, and is second only to headache as the most common neurological complaint. Every year, it costs Americans $50 billion.

Many of those sufferers are active older adults who not only want to avoid dependence on painkiller prescriptions but also are open to the idea of trying alternative methods of pain relief.

Cassata didn’t have much choice.

“A neurologist told me there was no way he could operate. There was too much deterioration.”

Cassata and his wife, Joan, talked with acupuncture practitioner Marita Schneider, who had set up an informational booth at the Alliance for the Arts green market one Saturday morning. Joan Cassata then thought an acupuncture assessment and session would make a good birthday gift for her husband. The couple knew others who had successfully treated their pain with Chinese medicine.

He began treatment with Schneider on Dec. 1. Pain in his shoulder and neck and most important, his lower back and legs, has been greatly reduced, he said.

Schneider said she began with the “balance” technique, employing the 12 meridians, or lines running the length of the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, each meridian corresponds to a major organ in the body, and each has another meridian as its complement. Schneider has treated Cassata by focusing on tender points of his bladder meridian and its complement, the lung meridian. Thin, disposable needles inserted at various points stimulate nerves that send messages to the brain to release endorphins and reduce pain, Schneider said.

Originally posted on News – Press