It is customary to say that the world is divided into two: those who suffer from back pain and those who will suffer from back pain in the future.
Back pain is the most prevalent pain worldwide whereby some 80% of the adult population suffers from various types of back pain which could go so far as to cause a disruption of a normal lifestyle.
Back pain constitutes the second highest reason for turning to Western medicine and it is also one of the main reasons for turning to complementary medicine such as Chinese medicine.
The causes for back pain
A herniated disc
- Muscle contractions.
- Stenosis of the spinal column.
- Prolonged sitting.
- Obesity and weak abdominal muscles.
- Excessive inward curve of the spine (Lordosis) which causes pressure on the spinal nerves (the nerves that are responsible for muscle and sensory reinnervation).
Back pain can appear in numerous forms, starting from an acute and sharp pain which radiates to the buttocks and legs (protruding/herniated disc) and through to chronic dull pain which appears and disappears intermittently. The most common pain is caused by muscle tension, which is commonly known as a “bad back”.
Protruding/ herniated disc
Between the vertebrae of the spine there is a cartilage known as intervertebral discs the function of which is to prevent friction between the vertebrae and to serve as a shock absorber. When the disc becomes herniated or protrudes, pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve, which reiinervates the legs, and due to this radiation, extreme pain, weakness or tingling are caused, pursuant to the injured disc. A herniated disc can be created due to considerable pressure on the vertebrae as a result of degeneration, erosion or trauma. The most prevalent location of herniated discs is between the L4-L5 vertebrae (the lumbar vertebrae) as the greatest pressure on the vertebrae is located there. Furthermore, it is also common to see protruding/ herniated discs in the neck vertebrae, when there will also be radiation to the shoulder, the arm and the fingers.
Chinese medicine has diverse treatment methods and tools for contending with back pain. The treatment is based on comprehensive and complete investigation, customized for the patient pursuant to his personal diagnosis.
Work methods of the Chinese medicine therapist include:
- Acupuncture: acupuncture has been proven by research as an effective treatment for back pain and it has also been found that a series of acupuncture treatments has caused a reduction in the frequency of back pain and a clear alleviation of the pain. The treatment is carried out by means of thin, sterile and disposable needles. The therapist inserts the needles into several acupuncture points along the body in order to affect the various systems in the body. With certain acupuncture methods an improvement in the pain can be felt from the moment the needles are inserted.
- Cupping therapy: an ancient treatment method with an intense effect carried out with the aid of special cups that are attached to the various areas of pain in the body by means of making a vacuum and thereby causing strong blood circulation and as a result release and alleviation of the pain.
- Gua sha: ancient Chinese massage for release of the soft tissues with the help of designated work tools. The method has also infiltrated the world of Western medicine (in physiotherapy) and is also known as graston / iastm / scraping.
- Herbal medicine: treatment with medicinal plants is considered as one of the mainstays of Chinese medicine. Herbal formulas personally customized for the needs of the patient and that work on the different systems in the body.
In a focused treatment series it is possible to reach good results (alleviation in the pain and radiations; release of muscle tension in the injured area; strong movement of the blood and the bodily fluids in the injured area will cause a significant reduction of the pain; reduction of the cases of inflammation of the sciatic nerve (which is caused as a result of friction of the disc against the nerve) and enables those suffering from pain to return to their normal routine.
Chinese medicine is considered to be preventive medicine and treatment by means of it will aspire to get to and treat the root of the problem in order to resolve it and prevent its recurrence in the future. A protruded/ herniated disc is a chronic problem therefore in order to prevent deterioration in the status quo or an additional episode of pain in the future one needs to make a change in lifestyle pursuant to the problem of the pain and the patient in order to carry out deep rooted treatment that will treat a range of causes of the pain, such as incorrect sitting habits which cause overloading on the core muscles; defective posture based on problems with the foot such as flat feet/ pes cavus (the opposite of flat feet, a high arch on the foot), Mortaon’s foot (a certain structure of the foot that causes incorrect posture and walking); lack of physical activity; obesity; and also to integrate in daily life stretching and lower back and walking muscles exercises in order to reduce the load on the back, to improve posture and enable the injured area to be in motion so that it will not atrophy.
The information presented in this article is general. It does not constitute medical advice or replace consultation with a physician. It should not be regarded as a recommendation or an alternative for medical treatment.
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(image is for demonstration purposes unsplash)