Lower back pain is the most common orthopaedic complaint and a symptom affecting 80% of the western population at some stage in their lives. In Britain, it accounts for 11.5 million lost working days per year.
Chinese medicine views back pain very differently from these other therapies. Back pain is often seen as stagnation of qi (energy) and blood in the local area. Treatment is then based on moving qi and blood through the channels to ensure that free flow is maintained.
In combination with this, external pathogenic factors can invade into the area. For example, many patients present with a back that is stiff and feels cold, the pain is worse when they go outside in the cold, damp weather and is improved when they put a hot water bottle on it. This provides a diagnosis of cold, damp in the channels which the acupuncturist then tries to clear. For other patients, a hot water bottle aggravates the pain and so a completely different diagnosis and treatment principle is made.
So in the treatment of back pain, the type of pain (whether it is dull or sharp), the time of day it occurs and what soothes or aggravates it are all of diagnostic importance. This then leads to dealing with the cause of the problem and not just the symptoms.
In the case of severe disc trauma, acupuncture can be very useful when physical manipulation through chiropractic is too painful or undesirable. Here, we can often provide a very gentle but highly effective treatment.