Chinese Medicine and Lumbar Pain
by Dr. Janice Brown, D.T.C.M., R.Ac.
If you are suffering from low back pain, you’re not alone. Low back pain also known as lumbago or lumbar pain is one of the most common reasons that people lose time from work and seek medical attention.
You may be experiencing lumbar pain for a variety of reasons. Acute pain lasts from a few days to a few weeks and is often a problem with the mechanics of the body; the way the spine, discs, muscles, ligaments, and nerves are aligned or moved. You may have had a slip or fall, an injury from lifting resulting in a strain or sprain, or possibly a pinched nerve.
Perhaps you are experiencing chronic pain which has lasted for longer than three months. Chronic pain can result from an acute injury that didn’t heal, a degenerative condition, aging with normal wear and tear on the structures of the spine.
If you have low back pain, you may also experience difficulty moving that can be severe enough to prevent walking or standing, limited range of motion, pain that radiates to the groin, buttock or upper thigh, pain that can be achy and dull or severe and stabbing, muscle spasms, and local tenderness when touched.
These common symptoms affect our quality of life by compromising our ability to work, get proper sleep, exercise, ultimately affecting our study, concentration and mood.
Oriental Medicine can work in synergy with Western therapies you’ve probably already experienced like massage, physio and chiropractic or independently to help treat your pain.
All pain in TCM is due to the inability of qi and blood to flow freely. When the qi and blood flow freely, there is no pain. Many treatments can be used for treating low back pain with TCM. The appropriate methods would be chosen based on the diagnosis of the pattern you present with. Common treatments include: acupuncture, cupping and herbs.
Acupuncture can be an effective modality to treat lower back pain. Appropriate acupuncture points are chosen to stimulate the healing process by bringing Qi and blood to the area. This helps by improving the free flow of nutrient rich blood to the injury and assists your body’s natural ability to repair itself.
An injury to the lower back is like log jam on a river, it restricts the flow of water causing it to swell and backup, reroute or stagnate in one spot. Acupuncture helps by breaking up the “log jam” or removing blockages such as stagnant blood, allowing the body to restore its natural state of balance. Results of acupuncture include faster recovery, less pain, and more energy.
Moving or Stationary Cupping can be used to treat lower back pain. The cupping suction works deeply within the body by pulling the exhausted stagnated blood to the surface to make it easier for the body to remove it. This acts to flush out the old and replace it with new blood. Often you can see the results of the treatment by the stagnant blood below the surface of the skin.
Herbs are nature’s medicine to assist your body from the inside. Herbal prescriptions are a powerful and natural contributors of the healing process. They are often used as a continuation of the acupuncture treatment, and are prescribed not only for their physiological effect on the body but also their energetic effect within a meridian or organ system. Taking the herbs regularly between acupuncture sessions allows a continuation of your treatment through the week. A herb may be prescribed to relax muscles, increase blood nutrients, and increase blood flow so the lower back can regain strength and mobility.
While Western medicine will often look primarily at the presenting injury in the diagnosis of lumbar pain, Oriental medicine looks to the individual to determine what areas within the body are out of harmony.
Because treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the patient’s pattern treatment is individual and takes into account the whole person. In Chinese medicine, it is said,
One disease, different treatments;
Different disease, same treatment.
For example, when a person experiences low back pain due to invasion by wind, cold, and dampness they will receive a completely different treatment than a person with low back pain due to kidney yin deficiency. A Western medical diagnosis for both people could be identical therefore both people would receive the same treatment. However, from an Oriental medicine view point, each would present with two totally different patterns of disharmony and each would be treated according to their pattern.
It is because TCM treatments are based upon identifying the individuals’ unique pattern that Chinese medicine causes no side effects or other medical complications when properly prescribed. Side effects are symptoms of an imbalance, and Chinese medicine seeks to bring the entire person back into a pattern of balance and good health. It is this thorough understanding of the individual based on pattern differentiation which allows the Traditional Chinese medical practitioner to choose the specific treatment that is just right for each individual person, not condition.
If you have questions about Low Back Pain, “WE” can help. Visit BodyMind Synergy, Your Place to get Better. 403.520.5258