Back-Ache and Chinese Medicine

Last month I wrote an article on Sciatica and got so many phone calls that I have decided to do a few more articles on back problems. The statistics on back pain are staggering. It is estimated that over 50% of people in Western countries will suffer from back pain at some time in their life. Chinese medicine and in particular acupuncture, gives excellent results in the treatment of this complaint. This article will focus on pain in the sacral area, which is below the kidneys on the back and is right above the buttocks and forms a “v” shape. It is still considered part of the spine although there are sacral points involved.


There are three diagnoses that present themselves in the sacral area. Stagnation of Qi and Blood is characterized by severe, stabbing pain which becomes worse with rest and better with light exercise although it would be worse with overexertion. It is tender to touch, does not respond to changes in weather and is much worse standing or sitting. It is also unaffected by the application of heat. There is a marked feeling of stiffness and rigidity in the muscles and an inability to flex and turn at the waist. Stagnation of Qi and Blood in the back in an acute case is due to a sprain. In a chronic case the sprain causes recurrent attacks of backache, especially if there is a background of Kidney-deficiency.


Kidney-deficiency is the cause of chronic back-ache. In many instances a patient will have one or two outbursts of pain and not attend to this problem and over time it manifests and will eventually end up with the patient throwing out their back during a simple event such as tying their shoes. In Chinese medicine this type of problem is best addressed when it occurs in the beginning, otherwise down the road it turns into a chronic and deeper problem. I also notice that some of my patients who are older complain about an old problem whereby they have thrown out their back maybe once every two years or so. This leads to repeated sprains and takes longer to heal and Chinese herbs must be taken over a period of time in order to build up the Kidney-deficiency, which has taken place over time and with age.


Younger people can also experience Kidney-deficiency and this can be from overexertion, work patterns, or from a hereditary Kidney-deficiency. Ballet as well as farm work before someone reaches the age of thirteen can weaken the Kidneys and the back. It can be combined with poor posture, performing excessive exercise and the enormous increase of people traveling in cars and not walking or biking to strengthen the spine and joints.


There is one more condition of back-ache which is the retention of Damp-Cold whereby the pain is worse in the morning and better with light exercise. This pain is relieved with heat and worse when the weather gets cold and damp. When Cold prevails there may be stiffness and contraction of the back muscles and the pain is more aggravated by rest and improved by movement. It also responds to heat. When dampness is involved there may be swelling, numbness and a feeling of heaviness.


All these problems can be cured with Acupuncture and Herbs. They do not need to be lifetime problems. In my twenty years of practice I have witnessed back pain totally resolving itself. You do not need to live with pain and you do not need to live on pain medication. Please call if you have any questions. I work with low income families and offer a free 10 minute consultation.

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