Acupuncture for Back Pain

Acupuncture for Back Pain

Have you felt a sudden sensation of pain, pulling, or weakness that informs you that you are in for more pain at a later time? Do you have a nagging, daily ache that develops over time? Lower back pain can feel like a nuisance and can hold you back from enjoying life to the fullest. If you are searching for how to reduce low back pain,  Acupuncture, cupping, guasha, and electrical stimulation can all provide relief.

Pain in the lower back is the most common complaint heard by healthcare practitioners. The vast majority – a whopping 80% of adults experience at least one episode of low back pain at some point in their lives. For some people, lower back pain becomes a chronic condition and is the second most common cause of disability amongst adults in the United States. Some have low back pain due to an injury  like a fall, automobile accident, or overuse due to work (thik bending, prolonged periods of sitting or standing, etc.)

How to Treat Lower Back Pain – A Common but Complex Condition

Lower back pain presents a challenge for physicians, because in many cases, there is no clearly discernible cause. MRI’s, X-Rays, and CT’s may help us get a picture of structural damage to the spine, but they do not always give us the full picture. Pain is not limited to structural or mechanical problems in the body. There can also be chemical, emotional, behavioral, sociological root causes, or a combination of any of the aforementioned.

The American College of Physicians has just recently issued new guidelines regarding the treatment of lower back pain specifically advocating that doctors and patients first try natural and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, and physical therapy over pain medications.

Acupuncture is utilized to treat the physical pain and also get to the root cause of your pain to help mitigate risk of a relapse. The main principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”) is to  treat the whole person, other known as a holistic approach. An acupuncturist will assess the different elements of each patient’s individual presentation to make a diagnosis and develop a course of treatment customized to the patient. This will include not only acupuncture, but lifestyle recommendations and potentially supplements to address the root of the problem. Exercise and nutrition are core components to getting the patient back on their feet and doing the things they love in a timely fashion. Lower back pain has been shown to affect a person’s mental outlook on life. Stress and depression can turn an acute condition into a chronic one. It is imperative to treat the root cause of an acute condition to prevent it from turning into a chronic condition.

What could be causing your back pain? 

Most patients experience a generalized type of lower back pain. This could be related to muscle strain or stiffness, repetitive movements or poor posture while relaxing, sleeping, or working. Other back pain can be based on specific injuries or pathologies. Some types of pain, such as sciatica, are rooted in the nerves, potentially due to pinching or other damage, and causing hip pain and pain that radiates down the leg(s). Occasionally the sensation can be like tingling or numbness rather than a burning pain.

Some  patients have had surgical intervention to correct their problem and now their scans may show that the problem has been “solved”–but they are still experiencing pain. In other words, a person’s experience of pain or loss of mobility may not correlate to what we see in the imaging.

acupuncture for back pain

Common conditions leading to back pain include:

  • Degenerated disc
  • Bulging or herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis (slipped disc)
  • Spinal scoliosis
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle strain
  • Muscle spasm
  • Pinched nerves
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney stones or gallstones
  • Digestive issues (constipation)
  • Life stressors

Self Care Tips to Reduce and Prevent Lower Back Pain

With acupuncture and other modalities, we aim for long-term, lasting results. At the same time, we guide the patient in vital lifestyle improvements, such as meditation, gentle exercises like Qi Gong, Tai Chi, or yoga, and promote an anti-inflammatory diet that fits the individual.

Here are some specific things you can do at home to help enhance the effects of acupuncture treatment and reduce lower back pain:

  1. Moderate exercise: walk, swim, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, and stretching. In most cases lack of movement can cause worsening symptoms so it is encouraged to incorporate some form of gentle movement to help with your back pain.
  2. Avoid lifting heavy items. It is imperative to remember to bend at the knees and not from the back. Forward bends as part of an exercise routine can also be aggravating to low back pain sufferers
  3. Weight control
  4. Anti-Inflammatory Diet: avoid coffee, spicy foods, nightshade vegetables (tomato, potato, eggplant and bell pepper), gluten, and dairy. 
  5. Change posture during your work by incorporating a few minutes of movement every hour.
  6. Cold and Heat: Use a cold compress for the first two days if there is an acute injury or any time directly after exercise. Use heat 3-5 times per day for chronic pain.
  7. Always check your mattress and pillows to ensure they are not contributing to your pain.
  8. Do stretches and gentle strengthening exercises specifically for the lower back and core muscles. The lower part of the spine holds us upright and strengthening the low back and the core can help take the strain off of the spine. 

Acupressure for Low Back Pain

Using your opposite thumb or forefinger, locate the crevice between the bones of your 4th and 5th finger, just beneath the knuckles. Press deeply until you feel tenderness there. Hold the pressure while you gently but vigorously move and stretch your lower spine and hips. Then, drag your thumb or finger down, finding another crevice just above the base where the 4th and 5th metacarpal bones meet. Apply pressure, again, while wiggling and turning from the lower back. This will help release tension and tightness and relieve pain.

What Do I Do If the Above Does Not Work?

If you are still in pain, and the suggestions above have not helped or you need some assistance while working on strengthening, you may be wondering how to find acupuncture near you. Look for a licensed acupuncturist. A good acupuncturist is highly trained and has experience in working with your primary care, orthopedic doctor, and your physical therapist if needed. At Healing Journey Acupuncture and Wellness, we include an in-depth consultation and exam plus a treatment which will take about 90 minutes. Typically, your acupuncturist will recommend a course of treatment that includes sessions one or two times per week for an hour each during the first few weeks, then we will reevaluate to keep track of progress and improvement. Your acupuncturist will come up with a plan to help get you back to doing the things you love to do in a timely manner. To book your first appointment click here.

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