of low back issues comes in large part from our
overly-sedentary lifestyles. These dynamic bodies
of ours were not designed to sit at a computer
all day, sit in our cars, sit on the couch. They
were designed to move in a full range of motion
on a daily basis. Few of us achieve that and many
of us simply live with achy and stiff muscles
or, even worse, pain.
All pain, regardless of the origins, is a result
of poor circulation. In Chinese Medicine, we say
where there is poor circulation there is disease.
And when we restore good circulation of qi, or
energy, and blood, to the body, it can then rebalance
itself leading to a decrease in pain. What then
Acute Low Back Pain & Sciatica
Let’s first look at acute trauma to the
lower back. Perhaps you have never had any lower
back pain. Yet after a stagnating and stressful
week at your desk at work you helped a friend
move last weekend. And all of a sudden, you threw
your back out doubling over in pain! This often
occurs with a lifting and twisting motion, i.e.
poor lifting mechanics. Your back just went into
spasm. This 10 out of 10 pain is sharp, electric
and if and when you are able to stand up, you
may notice that you are “stuck” to
one side. Why did this occur? Sitting for prolonged
periods of time creates imbalances in muscles—some
tight and short with others elongated and weak—and
a general weakening of the ligaments supporting
the spine due to a lack of exercise. With such
an internal environment, a sudden movement of
lifting and twisting can very easily bring on
a back spasm or even worse, sciatic pain.
Sciatic pain can be due to two causes. The first
is from a disc bulge in one or more of your lumbar
vertebrae. The discs in between your vertebrae
act like small shock absorbers and look much like
jelly donuts. With overexertion and a weakened
structure, that jelly can be forced out of the
donut, irritating the local nerves causing pain
and inflammation. You might experience that as
a spasm. This is the time when your body begins
the inflammatory process, splinting the area with
blood, allowing the tissues time to fix themselves.
The message here is "Do Not Move! Repairs
being done!" Sometimes though the inflammation
may be mild and you may think that you are just
stiff. And if you proceed to stretch it out, you
will find that after a few minutes of relief,
your back will tighten up even more. In either
case, this is a good time to immediately ice your
back for 5-10 minutes at least 3 times a day,
come in for treatments ASAP, and rest. If the
injury is severe enough those nerves can get so
irritated that they refer pain into the buttock
and down your leg all the way to your foot with
a dull somewhat electric achy sensation. This
is true sciatica.
Sometimes, however, perhaps in the absence of
low back pain, tight gluteal muscles can clamp
down on the sciatic nerve going through them,
causing that same pain referring down your leg.
We call this Piriformis Syndrome, named for the
overly tight gluteal muscle in question.
Acupuncture and herbs are incredibly effective
in dealing with acute low back pain and sciatica.
The acute pain can shift quickly and dramatically
and the sooner after the injury I see you the
better. If you actually have a bulged disc, that
jelly will never get back into the donut. But
I can help you decrease the local inflammation
and pain and maintain a state of comfort, and,
over time, support and strengthen your lower back
with the proper daily exercises.
Chronic Low Back Pain & Sciatica
You may be out of the acute stage of pain, but
you still feel stiff and tight. And how do you
keep that awful, ruin your week kind of pain from
returning? Here, we need to determine what is
causing your qi & blood to stagnate. Are there
muscle imbalances? Poor posture? Too much sitting
and not enough movement and exercise? Or perhaps
there are internal imbalances that need to be
addressed. Are you better or worse with heat?
How about cold? How do you feel with rest versus
activity? Is your pain worse at the end of the
day or upon rising in the morning? The answers
to these questions plus local palpation and having
a look at your tongue and feeling your wrist pulse
can lead us to a very clear understanding of what
type of internal environment is supporting your
recurrent or stubborn pain. Once we determine
your underlying imbalance, we can construct our
acupuncture and herbal treatments accordingly.
When you are in pain, let’s treat you quickly
and often until you get more comfortable. Sometimes
that may mean twice a week for one or two weeks.
Once we get you out of the acute stage of pain,
then we scale down to once a week and then every
other week and get you to the point where you
may only come in once a month for a tune-up. They
key factor in this progression is whether or not
you are able to recognize the causes of your pain,
adjust your lifestyle accordingly, stick to our
treatment protocols, and do the daily back exercises
I give you.
Is it time?
It is very easy to live with pain. Do you often
hear yourself saying “I have a bad back?”
“Maybe the pain will just go away.”
Are you stiff when you get out of a seat and just
need “to walk it off?” Nothing a couple
of Advil couldn’t fix, right?
Does any of this sound familiar? Perhaps now
is the time to finally experience your back differently.
Perhaps it is time to finally do something about
it. Acupuncture and herbs have helped me and my
back tremendously, so I speak from personal experience
here. With chronic pain, it is about first acknowledging
that you are in pain and then making the clear
decision that you do not “have a bad back.”
You are not defined by that pain. And it is time
to no longer let it limit your enjoyment of your
life. Pain is a messenger. And as they say, “Don’t
kill the messenger!” Hear what it has to
say, and make the wellness-affirming choice: it
is time to do something about it!
Click here to read more about Pain