Many Americans have tough jobs, work hard and this no doubt takes a toll on our bodies. But we don't necessarily have to have a job that requires hard labor to suffer from back pain. Even desk jobs with improper posture and positioning over time can reek havic on our spine. Others have been involved in car accidents or became injured with recreational activities.
One of the top causes of back pain are sprains (overstretching one or more of the ligaments in the back) and strains (a rip or tear in the muscle caused by sudden force). Whatever the issue is there is valuable help available to correct those spinal injuries, muscle strains, and sprains related to the injuries. Most people will do anything to avoid having surgery and other forms of treatment such as massage, chiropractic or physical therapy just haven't given them the results they desired. This is where acupuncture comes in. There are many great studies showing how acupuncutre can give lasting relief to back pain sufferers. Whether it be arthritis, Degenerative disc disorder (DDD), or bulging discs etc., there is proven relief from those tiny needles being inserted strategically into the skin. Relief happens by releasing endorphins and blocking pain receptors signaling the brain. People using acupuncture have been found to use dramatically less pain medications than those not receiving treatment.
There are several different ways of looking at back pain from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective. We need to remember to take off our western medicine hats so to speak to understand the philosophy behind it. There are three common conditions when addressing back pain from an eastern perspective.
The first being a Qi and blood stagnation in the body. What does that mean? Qi is a term used to explain the vital source or energy in the body which flows through meridians or channels that connect all the organ systems together. This is not a scientific term, and Qi doesn't translate all that well into our western/allopathic understanding of the body. But Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around and studied for thousands of years. They have come to understand that the body in a holistic way in the sense that everything is related and affects your health. The emotions you feel, your spiritual well being, as well as the food you eat are all taken into effect when it comes to your physical health.
That being said when there is an injury or a muscle group under constant stress or "wear and tear", this causes the body to be constantly inflames and trying to heal the area by sending more blood and nutrients. After time this fluid accumulation can create a blockage and make it hard for the area to heal with the constant inflammatory process going on. This is a local Qi and blood stagnation. Acupuncture points to address this stagnation are usually local with a few anti-inflammatory ones as well as some distal points that are related to the channel affected.
Another common cause of back pain is what is called a cold and damp obstruction. Again don't try to compare this to what you have learned with modern medicine. Chinese medicine is very basic in the sense that the elements around us can affect us. These conditions can go internal to affect organ systems when an underlying weakness is present. This means outside conditions of cold, damp, heat and wind can all have negative effects on our health.
What can cause cold and damp obstruction? This can be caused by being subjected to cold-damp weather such as heavy cold rain or heavy snow over long periods of time, as well as certian dietary choices leading to internal dampness and poor digestion. When our system is weakened and out of balance, caused by extreme weather and an underlying weakness, this allows the cold and damp condition to move internally causing stagnation leading to pain. Pain from cold and damp obstruction is worse in the morning, feels worse with cold and damp weather. The pain improves with heat applied, such as hot packs, herbal patches, or warm showers. Often there is numbness, swelling and a sense of heaviness as well. There are other factors present and changing which are all very specific, so rely on your acupuncturist to be your guide in helping you figure out what is the specific cause and how best to treat it.
Another common source of back pain in TCM is called deficiency type pain. This is from an underlying deficiency in one or more organ system or a yin or yang deficiency. Yin and yang being the balance or interplay of the male and female aspects of the body. Not talking about simply body parts but the functions of the body. Yang being the active moving force that is in charge of the active energy the body needs. And yin being the quiet essence or moisture, performing secretions internally.
To simplify this description of deficiency type pain is to say the cause is from a lack of fluids that moisten and cushion the joints. You could make the comparison to arthritis in western medicine, as it often affects middle aged or elderly people, is a dull pain, chronic/ongoing and improves with rest. There are also many ways to treat this condition let your acupuncturist find the expert solutions for you.
As you have seen this can be a complicated and sensitive matter knowing how to treat a condition just right and sometimes take several or up to 10 sessions to find lasting relief as everyone reacts differently to being acupuncture. This is not to discount the majority of people who find instant relief within one or two visits. Most often just a few simple points can be enough for your body to signal the release of endorphins and block those pain receptors giving patients the relief they are so greatly seeking.