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Low Back Pain – A TCM perspective

When encountering any problem you may have, be it at home, work or otherwise, there is almost always more than one way to approach it. Often a solution is made up of some combination of several different approaches. Low back pain is a very common example of this. While Chiropractic and Massage Therapy approach low back pain from similar viewpoints, occasionally it is important to look at it through a fresh lens. MiltonBackDoc has recently added a TCM practitioner - Meg Rector - to our staff. Below is her explanation of the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to low back pain.

In the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain is caused by a lack of “qi” energy and blood flow in the body. This lack of “qi” and blood flow can be due to a deficiency, meaning there isn’t enough “qi” and blood flowing, or stagnation, which is a blockage of “qi” and blood flow. The blockage can be caused by external elements (cold or damp) entering the body or by trauma to the body, in the form of overuse or an acute injury.

Is your back pain worse in cold, rainy or damp weather?

That means your pain is caused by external elements invading the body and causing a blockage of qi and blood flow. By nature, cold is constricting and dampness is heavy and sticky.  These elements can easily invade the body when our external defense (immune system) is weakened and we are overly exposed to cold & damp weather or environments.  The common symptoms you would see with this pattern are lower back pain occurring after exposure to cold & damp or worse on rainy days, a heavy or cold sensation, stiffness of the muscles in the lower back region, limited movement of flexion or extension, or pain that radiates down the legs.

Are you older in age, suffering from chronic dull achy pain in your lower back?

Lower back pain is a primary symptom that occurs when the kidney organ system is deficient in TCM theory, due to the fact that the kidneys reside in the lumbar region. Kidney qi is slowly depleting as we age. The more effort we put in to keeping our bodies healthy (through diet and lifestyle choices), the slower the kidney qi will deplete. That being said, the depletion is inevitable, which means that kidney qi deficient back pain is more common in the elderly.  The common symptoms that may occur are: subtle onset of lingering pain and soreness that is worse with activity and better with rest, as well as weakness in the loins and knees. Other general qi deficiency signs are lassitude and fatigue, poor appetite, bloating, loose stools, pallor, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Is your back pain acute, fixed in location and possibly due to an injury?

This is the most common cause of lower back pain: trauma due to a sprain or contusion.  This type of lower back pain is caused by an injury or overuse that has causes qi and blood in the meridians to become blocked and stagnate which results in pain.  The quality of the pain is normally fixed in a specific location and can be achy or sharp, causing rigidity in the muscles. The pain becomes worse with pressure and turning the body.

No matter what the pattern is that is causing the back pain, the main goal in treatment is to get the qi and blood flowing in the meridians that flow down your back.  This is done by choosing acupoints that are located on your back, specifically in areas that are more tender or painful, along with distal points that coincide to your specific diagnosis.  Cupping can also be very beneficial to start the treatment to release built up tension in the muscles and start the flow of qi and blood.

To read more about Meg, click here.

To read more about Traditional Chinese Medicine, click here.

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