As a traditional Chinese medicine acupuncturist and yoga teacher, I have helped countless individuals find relief from back pain through the use of acupuncture, yoga and the complementary therapies in traditional Chinese medicine. In this blog post, I will be discussing the causes of back pain, the ways in which acupuncture can alleviate it, and other therapies that can be used to complement acupuncture treatment.
Here are the key points we will be covering:
- A definition of back pain and its common causes
- The perspective on back pain in Western and Chinese medicine
- What acupuncture does for back pain
- Acupuncture treatment for back pain
- Other complementary therapies that can be used alongside acupuncture
- Back pain prevention
- Home remedies for back pain and self-care options
What is Back Pain
Back pain is a common ailment that refers to any discomfort or pain experienced in the area of the back, from the neck to the hips. It can range from a dull, constant ache to sharp, sudden pain. Back pain can be acute, lasting for a short period of time, or chronic, lasting for several months or longer. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury, poor posture, overuse, and degenerative conditions. Back pain can also be accompanied by other symptoms such as muscle stiffness, soreness, and limited range of motion. It can negatively impact daily activities and quality of life, and in some cases, it may require medical attention.
Causes of Back Pain
According to Western Medicine
According to Western medicine, back pain can be caused by a variety of physical factors and can be classified into several types:
Mechanical back pain: This type of back pain is caused by problems with the muscles, bones, and joints in the back. It can be caused by injury, overuse, poor posture, or degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.
Acute back pain: This type of back pain is sudden and severe, and is usually caused by an injury, sports injury or trauma.
Chronic back pain: This type of back pain is characterized by persistent pain that lasts for more than three months and may be caused by a combination of factors such as poor posture, lack of exercise, or chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia or spinal stenosis.
Radicular pain: This type of back pain is characterized by pain that radiates down the leg, caused by compression of the spinal nerve roots. It is commonly known as sciatica and can be caused by herniated disk, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disk disease.
Axial pain: This type of back pain is characterized by pain that is localized to the back and does not radiate to the legs or arms. It can be caused by muscle strain, poor posture, or degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.
Vertebral fractures: This type of back pain is caused by a fracture in one of the vertebrae, which can occur as a result of osteoporosis, trauma, or tumors.
Referred pain: This type of back pain is caused by a problem in another part of the body, such as the kidney, and is felt in the back.
Psychological causes: Back pain can also be caused by psychological factors such as stress, anxiety and depression.
It’s important to note that back pain can have multiple causes and that a combination of factors may be involved. A healthcare professional will be able to help identify the underlying cause of back pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Causes of Back Pain According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), back pain is caused by imbalances in the body’s energy flow, also known as Qi (pronounced as “chee”). These imbalances can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Emotional stress: Emotions such as worry, anger, anxiety, and depression can cause Qi to become stagnant, leading to pain.
Poor diet: An unbalanced diet, including eating too much sweet, greasy, spicy, or cold food, can lead to an accumulation of dampness and heat in the body, leading to pain.
Poor diet: A diet that is high in processed or greasy foods can cause imbalances in the body and lead to back pain.
Lack of exercise or movement: A sedentary lifestyle can cause stagnation of Qi and blood in the body, leading to pain and discomfort in the back.
Exposure to environmental factors: Exposure to cold, damp, or windy weather can cause Qi to become blocked, leading to pain.
Kidney deficiency: According to TCM, the kidneys are considered the source of Qi and blood in the body, and a deficiency in the kidneys can lead to back pain.
Qi and blood stagnation: When Qi and blood are not flowing smoothly in the body, it can lead to pain and discomfort in the back.
- Meridians blockage: In TCM, meridians are pathways through which Qi and blood flow in the body, when these pathways are blocked it can lead to pain and discomfort in the back.
- Trauma: Trauma such as an injury can cause Qi and blood to become blocked, leading to pain.
Age: As people age, their Qi and blood can become weaker and imbalanced, leading to pain, tension and weakness in the back
It’s important to note that traditional Chinese medicine looks at the body as a whole, taking into account the person’s overall health, symptoms, and medical history, and that a combination of factors may be involved. Back pain is viewed as a symptom of an underlying imbalance in the body, and treatment is focused on restoring balance and promoting healing. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner will be able to help identify the underlying cause of back pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
What Does Acupuncture do for Back Pain?
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that is used to treat back pain. According to TCM, back pain is caused by an imbalance of energy, called Qi, in the body. Acupuncture aims to restore the balance of Qi by inserting thin needles into specific points on the body, called acupoints. Here are a few ways that acupuncture is thought to treat back pain according to TCM:
- Stimulating acupoints can help to release tension and pain in the muscles and joints
- Acupuncture can improve circulation, which can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing
- By restoring the balance of Qi, acupuncture can help to improve overall function of the body and reduce pain
- Acupuncture can also help to improve the function of the nervous system and can reduce the perception of pain by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.
- Acupuncture helps reduce stress, anxiety, worry and depression that may be contributing to the emotional causes of back pain
- Research has shown that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for back pain, with studies demonstrating its ability to reduce pain and improve function in individuals suffering from chronic low back pain.
Neck pain is a common problem that I see in my clinic as an acupuncturist. It can be caused by a variety of factors such as poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, or a previous injury, and can greatly affect one’s quality of life. In this blog post, we will explore the causes, symptoms and treatment options for neck pain with a focus on acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapies.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this blog post:
- The common causes of it according to western and Traditional Chinese medicine
- How acupuncture works for neck pain
- The benefits of acupuncture for neck pain
- Other modalities for neck pain such as cupping, moxibustion, tuina massage, yoga therapy and gentle beginner’s yoga
- Prevention of neck pain
- Home remedies for neck pain.
Acupuncture Treatment for Back Pain
Acupuncture treatment for back pain typically involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body, called acupoints. The acupoints chosen for treatment will depend on the specific type of back pain and the underlying cause of the pain. During an acupuncture treatment, the needles may be left in place for anywhere from 1 to 30 minutes, and the patient may feel mild aching or tingling sensation at the needle site. Some patients may experience immediate pain relief, while others may require several treatments before experiencing significant improvement. Acupuncture is often used in combination with other forms of therapy, such as Tuina massage and cupping to provide the most effective treatment for back pain.
Common Acupuncture & Acupressure Points for Back Pain
- GB21 Jian Jing: Very good acupuncture point for upper back, neck and shoulder pain it is also good for headaches.
- BL12 Feng Men: Good for lumbar, upper back, shoulder and neck pain, insomnia very good point to strengthen the wei qi or protective qi to help the immune system.
- SI11 Tian Zhong: Acupuncture point for neck, upper back, middle back and shoulder pain
- BL18 Ganshu: A special point for the Liver and qi stagnation beneficial, for back pain, stress anxiety, depression
- BL23 Shen Shu: A special point for the kidneys an extremely good acupuncture point for back weakness and pain, A good point for strengthening the energy of the body.
- BL24 Qihaishu: Good acupuncture point for lower back and leg pain
- BL25 Dachangshu: Good acupuncture point for lower back pain, stiffness and rigidity
- BL40 Weizhong: Good acupuncture point for lower back, leg and knee pain
Complementary Therapies for Treating Back Pain
Traditional Chinese therapies such as tuina massage, cupping, gua sha, and moxibustion can be used in with acupuncture to help relieve back pain, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow to the affected area.
- Myofascial release is a type of massage that helps to release tension in the fascia (connective tissue) and can be used to alleviate back pain and improve mobility in the affected area.
- Yoga and beginners yoga is very beneficial for back pain as it helps to improve flexibility, strength, and balance, which can prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. Research has shown yoga therapy to be helpful for relieving back pain.
- Breathing exercises, such as pranayama, can help to relieve stress, depression and anxiety and improve circulation and oxygenate the body, which can speed up the healing process and alleviate pain. Good breathing is like an internal massage and help to create space and release the affected area.
- Meditation, such as mindfulness meditation, can be very beneficial for managing pain and reducing stress levels, which can help to promote healing.
- Yoga therapy can also be used to help with the rehabilitation and prevent re-injuries by creating a customized program based on the individual needs and goals of the patient.
Herbal Medicine: Herbal Medicine can be used to reduce inflammation and back pain and speed up the healing process.
Nutrition therapy: Eating a balanced diet and taking supplements can help to promote healing and reduce inflammation.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help to improve mobility and strength in the affected area, which can speed up the healing process and prevent re-injuries.
Overall, acupuncture is an effective treatment for back pain, but when combined with other traditional Chinese therapies such as cupping, tuina massage, myofascial release, yoga therapy, beginners yoga, breathing, and meditation it can provide a more comprehensive approach to healing and injury prevention.
Tips on Preventing Back Pain
Combining Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Yoga can be a powerful way to prevent sports injuries. Here are some tips on preventing sports injuries according to TCM and Yoga:
Maintain a balance of Qi: According to TCM, a balance of Qi is essential for preventing injuries. Maintaining a balance of Qi can be achieved through a healthy diet, good sleep, regular exercise, and avoiding excessive stress. Yoga can be used to cultivate balance of Qi through the practice of complete breathing and meditation.
Strengthen the Kidneys: The Kidneys are said to be the foundation of the body’s energy in TCM. Strengthening the kidneys can help to prevent injuries by keeping the body’s energy in balance. Yoga complete breathing and postures such as twists and backbends can be beneficial to strengthen the kidneys.
Warm-up and cool down with Qi Gong or Tai Chi: Qi Gong and Tai Chi are traditional Chinese exercises that can be used to warm up and cool down the body, preparing it for physical activity and helping to reduce the risk of injury. Yoga asanas, such as the eight movements in yantra yoga the Tibetan yoga of movement or sun salutation, can also be used as a warm-up and cool down.
Acupuncture and cupping: Acupuncture and cupping can be used to promote the flow of Qi, reduce inflammation and improve circulation, which can help to prevent injuries. Yoga can also be used to stimulate and balance the flow of Qi in the body, especially with the use of pranayama and bandhas.
Herbal Medicine: Herbs can be used to nourish and strengthen the body, promoting overall health and reducing the risk of injury. Yoga can also be used to detox the body, and help to improve digestion, which can aid in the assimilation of the herbs.
Home Remedies and Self Care for Back Pain
There are several home remedies that can be used to treat sports injuries according to Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and yoga, breathing and meditation:
- R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation): This method is used to reduce inflammation and pain in the affected area.
- Over-the-counter pain medication: such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used to alleviate pain.
- Physical therapy exercises: such as stretching and strengthening exercises can help to improve mobility and speed up the healing process.
Traditional Chinese Medicine:
- Acupressure and self-massage: Applying special herbal liniments with self massage and pressure to specific acupoints can help to alleviate pain and improve circulation.
- Herbal remedies: such as turmeric and ginger can be used to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Cupping and gua sha: These techniques can be used to improve circulation and reduce pain and inflammation in the affected area.
Heat therapy: Applying heat to the affected area can help to relax tight muscles and reduce pain. You can use a heating pad, hot water bottle, moxibustion or even a warm compress made with a damp cloth.
Hydration: Staying hydrated is important for overall health, including relieving back pain. Drinking plenty of water can help to keep your muscles and joints lubricated, which can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
Yoga, breathing and meditation
- Yoga: A simple yoga plan to help to improve flexibility and reduce pain and stiffness in the affected area.
- Breathing exercises: breathing exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing can help to relax the body and reduce pain.
- Meditation: such as mindfulness meditation can help to reduce stress and manage pain.
In conclusion, acupuncture is a safe and effective way to alleviate back pain. By stimulating specific points on the body, acupuncture can help to relieve pain and tension in the muscles and joints. It can also help to improve circulation and promote the body’s natural healing process. If you’re experiencing back pain, consider giving acupuncture a try. It is always best to consult a licensed acupuncturist to ensure that you are receiving safe and effective treatment. In addition to acupuncture, incorporating practices like yoga, heat therapy, massage, proper hydration, and good posture can also help to alleviate back pain. Remember to consult with a doctor if your pain is severe. With the right approach, you can find relief from back pain and improve your overall well-being.