Many people seek acupuncture for help with back pain. It is one of the most common ailments I treat and I love to see these patients. Why? Because they respond very well to acupuncture treatment and it is very very gratifying as a practitioner to have patients report dramatic improvements after treatment. And by dramatic, I mean that many folks I treat for back pain tell me at their next treatment that the pain improved from a 7-8 out of 10 to a 2 or 3, or is gone. And if you have ever had back pain or thrown out your back, you know that this kind of relief really gives you your life back and means the difference from wearing a back brace, having to take a lot of pain killers, or staying in bed. Pain is physically, emotionally and mentally draining.
And as you have most likely noticed there is an opioid epidemic in the United States – requiring physicians to take a closer look at how many narcotic medicines they prescribe and thus forcing them also to look at the use of “alternative modalities” to treat pain. I put alternative in quotes because Chinese medicine has been treating back pain successfully for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. However, the epidemic has created new urgency and perhaps some open minds about using non-pharmaceutical methods for pain relief.
Just how many people have back pain? This article from the Good Body indicates that 8 out of 10 people will have back pain at some point in their lives. This same article indicates that more than 50% of back pain patients work at a desk (I’m not surprised, more about that later). You won’t be surprised that relief from pain, cited by this article, came from acupuncture, chiropractic and physical therapy. Of course, pain medicine was used, but only 17% said it was effective for the pain – as compared to more than 50% who said chiropractic care was effective for pain relief.
As I mentioned, the opioid epidemic has pushed western medicine to look seriously at how to help patients without medication – resulting in the Annal’s of Internal Medicine’s report on non-invasive back pain treatment recommendations for treatment. The report provides treatment guidelines for doctors who see patients complaining of back pain. The recommendations for acute back pain as well as chronic back pain include acupuncture! Hallelujah! This means your doctor will likely not argue with you when you tell them you are coming to see me and they might even support you!
Enough of my opinions – here’s what you can do to help yourself if you have had back pain in the past or have it now acutely.
- Apply ice with the initial pain, but after a day or so, add heat. You can add heat after ice, (10 minutes of ice, then the heat), or just use heat alone. Listen to your body.
- If you sit all day, you must stand every hour and move your body. Long term sitting leads to weak gluteus medius muscles, one of the big problems in back pain.
- You guessed it! Schedule a treatment!
- Find a good chiropractor and see them ASAP. Here are two I love; the doctor’s at Community Chiropractic and Total Balance Chiropractic can help.
- Strengthen your glutes, especially Gluteus Medius. The most frequent patient I see is one whose back muscles are in spasm and with weak gluteal muscles. Don’t know how to work these muscles? Remember Jane Fonda’s clamshell exercise? Have you ever been sent home by a Physical Therapist with these? Well they are great, but you don’t even have to do that much work, you can just do sidelying hip abduction! Here’s a great website with this exercise and a video.
- Get in the bath with some epsom salt. Epsom salt baths are an easy way to absorb magnesium, which reduces inflammation and pain.
I could go on and on – there’s a lot you can do to help yourself get back into life after hurting your back. These suggestions are a great start – but you deserve tailored treatment provided by an experienced practitioner. There are a lot of similarities among patients in pain. However, everyone really is different and canbenefit from individually tailored care. When you are ready we’d love to see you.