A variety of spinal anatomy and/or muscle structure reasons cause low back pain. Medical doctors often find the culprit to be one of three main areas. Degenerative or arthritic conditions can affect discs and small articular surfaces called facet joints located in the back of the spine. Nerves compressed by bulging or herniated discs are also common. Disc herniation ~ and where the pain radiates to ~ can help determine which vertebral nerve is involved. Mechanical instability of the vertebra or spondylolisthesis is a third cause. This is forward slippage of one vertebra, most commonly occurring in the lower lumber spine.
Bulging discs or herniations are most common back pain reasons for younger adults. Degenerative arthritic conditions, or the accumulation of years of wear and tear and/or poor body mechanics are more common causes for those over 40. Aggressive exercise and sports may also be a factor. In severe cases the degenerative process may lead to narrowing of the spinal canal causing a condition called spinal stenosis. With spinal stenosis the space available for nerves becomes narrowed resulting in pain and numbness in the legs.
Back pain is estimated to affect 80% of all Americans at some time in their life. Back pain causes lost hours on the job and recreation time. Back pain sends people in search of relief.
Traditional Chinese Medicine also has three primary patterns to evaluate low back pain. These are energetic in nature vs. the anatomical approach described above. Limited movement of energy (referred to as Stagnation in Chinese Medicine) is a commonly seen with overuse and back strain. Visualize this condition as rush hour freeway traffic …. lots of cars (energy) not moving (stagnant). Individuals with this pattern usually experience distending, hard to pinpoint dull pain with the occasional sharp stabbing pain in a fixed location. Invasion of Cold and Damp is the pattern commonly associated with arthritis. Radiating pain may be common. Many people also report a heavy sensation in the low back. If the pattern becomes chronic, pain often worsens with changing weather conditions. Kidney deficiency patterns can be another cause. This is often present as the underlying condition in many patients. In addition to low back pain these patterns have multiple signs and symptoms which your Acupuncturist will evaluate in detail during a session.
Both anatomical and energetic evaluations require through review of signs and symptoms to insure the best outcome. Acupuncture has provided relief to many who suffer from back pain and often is used as a first line treatment option. Acupuncture has no harmful side effects and can be done concurrently with other therapies as well.