Tracey-Ann Brown, Complementary & Oriental Medicine
Of the persons who seek out Chinese medicine interventions for pain management, the vast majority are for pain in the back and in particular pain in the lower back. In many cases, acupuncture is able to offer much-needed relief.
Many persons experiencing back pain complain of one or more of the following:
Shooting or stabbing pain.
Pain which radiates down the leg.
Muscular spasms and tightness which, if severe, may affect range of motion and the ability to stand straight.
Back pain may be caused by:
A strain of a muscle or ligament: this may be brought on by physical strain or injury.
Herniated discs: a bulging of the cushion between the bones of the spine (vertebrae).
Arthritis: this may cause narrowing of the space through which the spinalcord passes.
Skeletal abnormalities: such as scoliosis.
Osteoporosis: causes brittle bones, which, in turn, may lead to compression fractures of the bones of the spine.
In addressing any pain along the back, the location and trajectory of the pain is first clearly identified. Once this is done, it can be determined which meridian/pathway the pain falls on. Very thin acupuncture needles are then gently inserted at acupuncture points local to the area of pain.
Xi-Cleft points: Additionally points known as xi-cleft points on the identified meridian are needled. Xi-Cleft points occur on all the primary acupuncture meridians and are used for pain which occurs anywhere along the path of the meridian.
Du Mai and Hua To points: In the case of pain directly along the spine, points from the Du Mai meridian with points located between the spinal vertebrae are selected, often along with points which run immediately alongside the spine known as Hua To points.
Since the acupuncture needles are very thin, there is often minimal to no discomfort during the procedure.
In cases where there is muscular tightness or spasms, cupping may be done prior to the insertion of needles. Suction cups are placed in the area of discomfort and slide along the skin, lifting both the skin and muscle just below, allowing the relaxation of the muscles and enhancing the overall effectiveness of the treatment.
Electrical stimulation involves the application of a mild charge to the tips of an inserted acupuncture needle in order to increase the stimulation and pain-relieving effect of the acupuncture stimulation. It is not meant to be an exercise in how much one can bear as it is a means of gently stimulating the point.
Course of Treatment
The number of acupuncture treatments needed will depend on the severity of the condition. Improvement is usually noticed within the first two weeks of treatment, which may be done once or twice weekly, usually accompanying a prescription for rest.
Chinese herbal formulas
In addition to acupuncture, herbal prescriptions may be given. These herbs are used to relax the muscles, reduce swelling, and nourish the bones where degeneration or deficiencies exist. Several herbs are usually combined to create the ideal prescription.