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Back Pain


  • Acute and chronic pain syndromes, as some of society’s most costly health problems, have an enormous impact on individual, national, and global levels. In the United States, chronic pain is the third most common health-care problem, behind heart disease and cancer, with the combined annual costs of lost work days, doctor visits, hospital stays, pain-reducing drugs, and disability totaling an estimated $100 billion. Long lasting pain often creates a chronic pain cycle: Pain, lack of exercise, limited physical activity, chronic fatigue, stress, depression, muscle tension, tightness, cramping, sensitive nerves, and again, pain. Patients suffer from this pain cycle. Some patients even feel that their quality of life changes completely due to a chronic pain condition


  • According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), nothing in the human body can function independently. Pain is the body’s warning alarm. It tells you something is wrong. If you ignore your body’s alarm, similarly to the fire alarm in your house, severe problems can form soon. Human body functions are dependent on the life force energy-Qi. Qi and blood flow through the meridian system, nourishing and protecting body tissues and helping them maintain their functions. If, however, the body is beset with disease or injury, normal pathological symptoms will appear and affect the organs and meridian. Once the meridian is blocked, the Qi and blood are not able to move along smoothly. As a result, the affected area will not be able to get enough nutrition. In response, the patient feels pain, tingling, stiffness, bloating, or numbness. Hence the old TCM saying, “There is a blockage, there is pain. Otherwise, there is no pain.”


  • The meridian system is just like a network. Each meridian is connected with a specific organ. The organ damage may show up from the meridian, and the local blockage of the meridian can affect the internal organ as well. That is why in TCM, when treating a pain condition, the doctor will not usually only focus on just the local pain, but also (and sometimes more important) work to rebalance and harmonize the whole body. Meridian blockage can be caused by external reasons such as excessive cold, wind, dampness, dryness, fire (heat) or injury. It also can be caused by emotional change such as anger, sadness, fear, stress, depression, as well as an internal organ deficiency or malfunction. Figuring out what exactly is the cause of the pain and which meridian is blocked is extremely important in treating pain. Generally speaking, relieving blood and Qi stagnancy, balancing the energy, nourishing the tissue, increasing circulation, and building up deficient organs are all ways that TCM treats pain. Acupuncture can be used to correct the flow of Qi; Herbal medicine can be used to reestablish and balance Qi, blood and moisture in organ networks, in order to avert pathological factors.


  • Clinical studies support that acupuncture is an effective modality in the treatment of almost all kinds of pain conditions, including the following: migraines, neuralgia, neck pain, back pain, herniated disc, TMJ, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis, frozen shoulder, shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, dysmenorrhea, osteoporosis, sports and other injuries, surgical pain and even cancer pain. Researchers have discovered beneficial immune and endocrine alterations following acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture may actually help prevent pain by acting on the sympathetic nervous system and by stimulating the body to produce biochemical substances, such as endorphins, to help reduce pain.


  • Chinese herbs for pain treatment are often used as formulas. According to the patient’s condition, many herbs are put together like a group to enhance the power of the treatment and reduce the side effects. Some herbs have analgesic properties, and many of them are extremely potent. Herbal medicine can be used internally as well as externally. They are typically taken in the form of tea, capsules or concentrated powder. Depending on the situation, some herb preparations are given in China intravenously or subcutaneously.


  • Tuina, a body work therapy, is a complete system of body alignment based on TCM. It utilizes acupressure, stretching and gentle manipulation to restore balance and harmony in the human body. As an additional therapy to acupuncture treatment, cupping (negative pressure from a jar), and moxibustion (burning herbs to create heat) can also be used to treat certain types of pain such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Chinese nutrition and exercise, such as Tai-ji and Qi-gong are also recommended in pain management.


  • Overview Low back pain refers to any of several types of pain or discomfort in the lower back.

  • What is going on in the body?

  • Low back pain may involve the muscles, joints, or nerves of the lower back. It may also be referred pain, which means the pain is actually coming from another organ, such as a kidney.

  • What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

  • Low back pain may range from a dull ache to severe, disabling pain. The individual may have related symptoms, including the following:

  • decreased ability to flex the knee
  • decreased ability to move the foot and toes in certain directions
  • numbness, burning, or tingling in the leg

  • pain that travels down the leg to the back of the thigh and calf (known as sciatica)

  • What are the causes of the condition?

  • Dejenerative disc disease, dejenerative joint disease, bulging disc, herniated disc, arthritis , spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)narrowing of the disk spaces. The aging process lends itself to natural wear and tear on the low back structures. What can be done to prevent the condition? Proper lifting techniques are important to avoid a ruptured disk. These techniques can be enhanced by the use of an abdominal support belt.

  • How is the condition diagnosed?

  • Diagnosis of low back pain begins with a medical history and thorough physical exam. Depending on the suspected cause of the problem, the healthcare professional may order diagnostic tests, such as: blood and urine testsa bone scanCT or MRI scansan electromyogram What are the long-term effects of the condition? Low back pain is a leading cause of disability and missed work in developed countries. Those affected may be unable to perform activities they enjoy. Chronic pain can result in depression, lack of productivity, and drug abuse. If there is nerve damage, the person may have weakness, numbness, and loss of muscle mass.

  • What are the risks to others?

  • Low back pain is not contagious and poses no risk to others.

  • What are the treatments for the condition?

  • Low back pain caused by strains or sprains will get better on its own within four weeks, with or without treatment. People with more serious conditions, such as a ruptured disk, may benefit from treatment. A ruptured or herniated disc is generally treated conservatively at first. HERNIATED DISK Also called: Bulging disc, Compressed disc, Herniated intervertebral disc, Herniated nucleus pulposus, Prolapsed disc, Ruptured disc, Slipped disc

  • The bones (vertebrae) that form the spine in your back are cushioned by small discs. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. A herniated disk is a disk that slips out of place or ruptures. If it presses on a nerve, it can cause back pain or sciatica.

  • A. Herniated discs can occur in any part of the spine. Herniated discs are more common in the lower back (lumbar spine), but also occur in the neck (cervical spine). The area in which you experience pain depends on what part of the spine is affected.

  • Causes

  • A single excessive strain or injury may cause a herniated disc. However, disc material degenerates naturally as you age, and the thick ligaments that hold it in place begin to weaken. As this degeneration progresses, a relatively minor strain or twisting movement can cause a disc to rupture.

  • Certain individuals may be more vulnerable to disc problems, and as a result may suffer herniated discs in several places along the spine. Research has shown that a predisposition for herniated discs may exist in families, with several members affected.

  • Herniated Disc Symptoms

  • Symptoms vary greatly depending on the position of the herniated disc and the size of the herniation. If the herniated disc is not pressing on a nerve, you may experience a low backache or no pain at all. If it is pressing on a nerve, there may be pain, numbness, or weakness in the area of the body to which the nerve travels. Typically, a herniated disc is preceded by an episode of low back pain or a long history of intermittent episodes of low back pain.

  • Lumbar spine (lower back): Sciatica frequently results from a herniated disc in the lower back. Pressure on one or several nerves that contribute to the sciatic nerve can cause pain, burning, tingling, and numbness that radiates from the buttock into the leg and sometimes into the foot. Usually one side (left or right) is affected. This pain often is described as sharp and electric shock-like. It may be more severe with standing, walking or sitting. Along with leg pain, you may experience low back pain.,,muscle spasms or weakness.

  • Cervical spine (neck): Symptoms may include dull or sharp pain in the neck or between the shoulder blades, pain that radiates down the arm to the hand or fingers, or numbness or tingling in the shoulder or arm. The pain may increase with certain positions or movements of the neck.Neck pain that spreads to the shoulders and upper arms, when the herniated disk is in your upper back Tingling or numbness Muscle spasms or weakness

  • TREATMENT Alternative traditional Chinese therapy of acupuncture. Acupuncture is perhaps the most popular form of traditional oriental medicine, and it has proven to be quite effective for treatment of a herniated disc and the sciatic pain associated. Further to this the acupuncture can also relieve spinal stenosis, lower back pain, spine root compression, neck pain, neuropathy and other irritating and debilitating diseases.Kimberly has had great results utilizing acupuncture with electro-acupuncture,bio-magnetics and light therapy.

  • In some cases Chinese herbs and acupuncture have been proven to be more effective, less risky and less invasive in comparison to more common forms of treatment for a herniated disc such as surgery and oral steroids. Side effects associated with drugs for treating a herniated disc is a common reason for people experimenting with acupuncture.

  • Acupuncture tends to be even more effective when it is utilized upon the onset of the initial symptoms of a herniated disc such as back spasms and cramps. If the condition of the herniated disc is more severe, often acupuncture will be teamed with traditional Chinese herbal remedies to assist in the recovery process. Further to this the longer lasting effects of acupuncture are realized through combining the treatment with physical therapy and exercises. When acupuncture is delivered correctly there can also be additional benefits for the patient- such as an improvement in mood and less fatigue.

  • It is helpful and important for one's recommended doctor or physician to assess the degree of damage involved in the herniated disc and associated sciatica pain, before considering acupuncture as an effective treatment for the herniated disc.

  • It is a frightening statistic that more than half of the US adult population experience or are affected by sciatica pain. It is that burning pain from the lower back down to the feet caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve resulting in most instances in a herniated disc. The normal reaction for sufferers of a herniated disc and sciatic pain is too improve the posture and walk and site more upright. This however can increase the pressure on the problem area, resulting in further discomfort. It is quite common that, with age and poor nutrition, the back bone and its muscles and other essential body parts deteriorate and breakdown, and factors like overexertion, accidents, diseases, and bad posture all result in back problems.

  • Acupuncture as a herniated disc treatment when performed as early as possible has been shown to rapidly improve recovery time and ease sciatica pain significantly. Research has shown that the acupuncture stimulates the damaged area of the spine creating naturally occurring steroids encouraging it to repair and producing valuably endorphins in the body. In this natural way the swelling is minimized and the pain of the herniated disc is eased. This dual effect from the acupuncture is why is can be so effective

  • Conclusion

  • The benefits of acupuncture often vary from patient to patient and are also very dependent on the person administering the acupuncture. Always seek you doctor or physician's advice before getting acupuncture treatment for a herniated disc and sciatica pain. Acupuncture is certainly a far more positive option and a less invasive one for treating a herniated disc than surgery and more serious oral steroids.

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    Kimberly Halsey A.P., D.O.M
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