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Low Back Pain.

 

I am a 55 year old male and I have been experiencing a gradually increasing pain in my lower back region. It is sometimes hard for me to stand up straight at times requiring me to sit or lie down. What can Acupuncture do for low back pain?

Low back pain is the second most common complaint received at an Acupuncture clinic. It just so happens that it is one of the many conditions that Acupuncture can treat very well.

 

The lower back includes the lumbar spine, the sacrum, the lumbo-sacral joints, the sacro-iliac joints, the coccyx and associated soft tissues, including the large lumbar spinal muscles, strong ligaments and the intervertebral discs. Pain may arise from a problem in any one or more of these areas. This pain may be seen as a structural related problem. The type of pain depends on the individual, their anatomy, other external factors and possible underlying body deficiencies.

A common finding is that a nerve that exits the spine into the trunk of the body may have been "pinched" by another structure which may be causing the pain.

The low back is subjected to considerable mechanical stress, with the L5/S1 segment being particularly vulnerable. It is frequently overloaded, either suddenly or over a longer period of time, to the point where it becomes painful - between 65 and 90% of us will experience low back pain at some time in our lives.

There has been an enormous amount of speculation and disagreement among the various experts as to the nature and causes of low back pain and there is still no clear consensus. It seems as though most tissues of the low back are capable of producing pain - the muscles, ligaments, intervertebral synovial joints (apophyseal joints) and intervertebral discs. The actual response depends on the weaknesses and circumstances of the individual.

The western medical standard treatment would include drugs to alleviate the pain and surgery may be required in severe cases. The drugs are not the most ideal solution as they do not treat the underlying problem and surgery always has risks involved.

Your Acupuncturist can work out the cause of your back pain during their diagnosis. It may be found to be a stagnation of energy (qi or blood) in the low back and in this case the treatment goal of your practitioner would be to move this stuck energy which in turn will alleviate the pain.

The pain may also be caused by an underlying deficiency in the kidney's in the way that they function in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The kidneys are responsible for the growth and development of the bones among many other things. Acupuncture can tonify this deficiency which will strengthen the lower back. A common treatment method for kidney deficiency is the use of chinese herbal therapy.

Acupressure has been found effective in reducing low back pain in terms of disability, pain scores and functional status as found by doctors at the National Taiwan University. Acupressure is the pushing of the fingertips at the same points on the body used in acupuncture. The doctors found an 89 percent reduction in physical disability compared with physical therapy and the benefits of the treatment were sustained for six months.

There are many different therapeutic techniques available for the treatment of low back pain including acupuncture needling, acupressure and herbal therapy. The length of treatment depends on the cause of the pain. If an underlying deficiency (kidney) is found then this may take longer to treat than a stagnation of energy (qi and blood). It also depends much on the individual. Nethertheless, acupuncture can provide an effective treatment for low back pain.

Research:

20/09/06 - In a two year study of 241 back pain sufferers, researchers at the University of York found that a short course of acupuncture is effective in treating patients with low back pain and the benefits appear to improve with time. Click here for more on this research.

20/04/06 - Herbal medicine is effective in treating lower back pain and in some cases is just as effective as pharmaceutical drugs. Devil's Claw, in a standardized daily dose of 50 mg or 100 mg harpagoside, seemed to reduce pain more than placebo; a standardized daily dose of 60 mg reduced pain about the same as a daily dose of 12.5 mg of Vioxx. While Willow Bark, in a standardized daily dose of 120 mg and 240 mg of salicin reduced pain more than placebo; a standardized daily dose of 240 mg reduced pain about the same as a daily dose of 12.5 mg of Vioxx. Click here for more on this research.

16/03/06 - German researchers have also reported that Acupuncture improves lower back pain compared with no treatment in what they believe is the largest trial to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture for lower back pain. Click here for the research article.

22/02/06 - "Acupressure was effective in reducing low back pain in terms of disability, pain scores and functional status," doctors at the National Taiwan University reported in the current issue of the British Medical Journal. "The benefit was sustained for six months." To find out more about the research into Acupressure and its effectiveness in reducing low back pain click here.

Advanced Practitioner Information:

The following information is suitable for students and practitioners of Acupuncure/TCM and contains content which requires advanced knowledge in this field.

Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment for Low Back Pain

Western Scientific Method Treatment for Low Back Pain

References

This information has been used with permission from Close to the Bone by David Legge.

Related research archive articles:

1.)  Acupuncture for acute non-specific low back pain: A pilot randomised non-penetrating sham controlled trial.

2.)  The impact of patient expectations on outcomes in four randomized controlled trials of acupuncture in patients with chronic pain.

3.)  Acupuncture for Chronic Low Back Pain in Routine Care: A Multicenter Observational Study.

4.)  Acupressure Eases Low Back Pain


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