Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical attention. It is one of the most frequent causes of missed workdays and one of the most expensive conditions in the United States; according to a recent government report, nearly one million people in the U.S. took time away from work to treat and recover from some sort of back pain.
Most back pain is muscular in nature. Muscle pain perpetuates what is known as the pain cycle, a phenomenon of which the back is particularly susceptible. In the pain cycle, pain causes a muscle to spasm, which may distort the discs, joints and nerves of the spine. This spasm leads to further pain, leading to further spasm, which compounds the original problem. If the nerves are irritated enough, it may cause pain to radiate down into the leg, similar to pain experienced via a herniated disc.
What can acupuncture do?
Acupuncture can play an important role in the reduction or elimination of back pain by reducing recovery time and preventing a chronic condition from developing.
Research has shown that acupuncture causes the body to produce natural steroids and promote the production of natural endorphins. Steroids decrease inflammation, while endorphins are produced by the body to kill pain. Both substances can play an integral part in the breaking up of the pain cycle.
By reducing acute back pain, acupuncture may also reduce the chances of chronic back pain from occurring. It can help avoid the need for costlier and more invasive surgical procedures. And if back pain can be significantly reduced with acupuncture, it also lowers the need for painkillers or other medications that can either cause unwanted side-effects or prolong a patient’s condition.
Many styles of acupuncture may help ease back pain. Some practitioners may advocate very few needles at particular acupoints on the hand; other practitioners may employ electroacupuncture at several points on the body simultaneously. In general, the longer the pain has been present, the longer it will take for acupuncture to produce a response. (from AcupunctureToday.com)
I sought acupuncture for neck and back pain after I was hit by a drunk driver 26 years ago. Not only did my pain improve, but my acupuncturist taught me how to eat healthier to reduce inflammation. No wonder I’d feel so achey after eating a scone! Sugar feeds inflammation, so reduce pain by including plenty of vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and lots of water. Avoiding inflammatory foods such as sugar, white bread, fast food and soda has helped many of my patients.
Proper strengthening is also critical to improving back pain. “Superman” exercise, plank, swimming and other core exercises strengthen the stability of the back.
Proper ergonomics is another key aspect to back health. Taking breaks from sitting at your desk every 45 minutes, having a good chair and proper ergonomics make a huge difference in preventing the tension building up in the back. I see big changes in my patients pain levels as they do their everyday activities, such as using their legs when lifting rather than bending, using good posture while gardening, doing dishes, shaving and driving. There are great videos on youtube for visuals of good ergonomics and back exercises. Personally, I use my Cellerciser (a special mini-trampoline) every day and do 1 minute of plank on an exercise ball. Simple, consistent good habits will keep your back healthy and strong.