The lower back is one part of the body which easily gets hurt because it moves back and forth, side to side, and rotates while bearing the weight of the upper body at the same time. When we hear about lower back pain, we usually think of a disc problem referred to as “intervertebral disc herniation”. But actually that accounts for no more than 10% of cases. Low back pain is often accompanied by sciatica which radiates pain to the hip and leg.
When we feel pain in the low back, we can go to a doctor for an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI, and we may receive conservative drug and physiotherapy treatment, or even surgery in severe cases. But even if we undergo surgery, low back pain can reoccur easily. It’s at that point that people tend to come to acupuncture clinics.
Eastern Medicine’s treatment of low back pain focuses on the underlying problem which is causing the current symptoms, just as it does for other health issues. In most cases I see clinically, lower back pain occurs due to the weakening of tendons and ligaments around the vertebrae, and in the case of older people degeneration of the vertebrae as well as. What I focus on during treatment is the diagnostic issue of why these tendons and ligaments have become weakened. Even if two patients come to see me with lower back pain in the same area, the cause of each may be different.
For example, in a person with chronic indigestion, low back pain treatment should deal with the indigestion problems first or at the same time as treatment of the lower back pain itself. This is because indigestion results in poor generation of qi and blood, which then can’t nourish the tendons and ligaments. Or in the case of someone with a hot temper who gets stressed easily; treatment should focus on the liver and on controlling stress, as well as treating the lower back pain. So Eastern medicine’s approach treats the root causes of symptoms, which prevents recurrence of the disease.
All low back pain relates in some way to the circulation of qi and blood in the lower back. I usually see a lack of qi and blood or stagnated qi and blood in the lower back, and internally this relates directly to the function of 5 organs and 6 visceral. If we normalize these, the muscles and tendons of the whole body (including lower back) will get stronger, at which point the lower back pain should be cured and rarely recur. As an added benefit, other common discomforts will also improve, such as neck, shoulder and knee pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, cold hands and feet, etc.
If a person with first-time lower back pain comes to an Eastern medicine clinic at the outset, most lower back pain may be cured without surgery. Curing low back pain takes 1-6 months with acupuncture treatment, and may require an application of herbs at the same time.