- Professional Acupuncture & Physical Therapy205 W. 2nd Street
Duluth, MN 55802
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Statistics show eight out of 10 people will experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50 percent. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. It is also very well known in the United States, people are too sedentary and this leads to excess weight gain that can create added pressure on the body, especially the low back.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system that dates back nearly 3,000 years. But despite its age, TCM has a lot of validity to offer in the age of modern medicine. Thousands of studies have proven acupuncture, just one of the modalities used in TCM, can be very beneficial in the treatment of low back pain. Here are five reasons why someone should consider getting acupuncture to treat low back pain.
- Acupuncture has no harmful side effects. In comparison to most Western medical approaches to treating low back pain, acupuncture is the clear winner. There are no real negative side effects associated with acupuncture treatments. There can be a bruise or a little tenderness after the treatments, but that pales in comparison to the side effects from most pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures. Even regular ingestion of ibuprofen can deteriorate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, eventually leading to ulceration.
- Acupuncture is personalized healthcare. One thing truly different about TCM is every patient is treated differently. There could be 10 people with the exact same Western medical diagnosis in an acupuncturist’s’ office, but they may all be treated differently. This is because not everybody’s root cause of the ailment is the same. This makes acupuncture treatments very personalized.
- Acupuncture reduces inflammation. Back pain is frequently accompanied by joint inflammation in the spinal column. Acupuncture promotes the release of vascular and immune-mediating factors that actually decrease inflammation. Usually when inflammation is decreased, so is pain.
- Acupuncture improves sleep. Low back pain can frequently disrupt sleep. With regular acupuncture treatments, not only is the pain and inflammation of back pain decreased, but so is the sleep interruptions due to the aforementioned pain. This is just one of the positive side effects of acupuncture.
- Get your life back. Regular acupuncture treatments can improve a person’s overall well-being. And when it comes to low back pain, life can be changed dramatically. People sometimes have to miss work due to the pain and lack of sleep caused by the pain. But acupuncture can change all of that, allowing people to resume regular everyday activities.
For anybody who has ongoing low back pain, the five reasons listed above should give you hope acupuncture can provide relief. Let us help you along your path to wellness.
In 2016, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine published a study that looking at the efficacy of acupuncture in managing acute pain for patients in the emergency room when compared to intravenous morphine. The researchers looked at 300 patients who presented to the emergency room with acute onset moderate to severe pain. Half of them were treated with acupuncture and half were given intravenous morphine. To measure their pain reduction, they asked patients to report their pain score before and after the treatments, and considered a reduction of 50 percent or greater to be a significant reduction.
The study showed the patients who received acupuncture treatments for their pain saw pain reductions of 92 percent compared to 78 percent in the morphine group. The acupuncture also seemed to work more quickly than the morphine, lowering patients’ pain scores in an average of 16 minutes compared to 28 minutes for the morphine group. Additionally, 89 patients who received morphine experienced minor adverse side effects while only four of the patients who received acupuncture did. Overall, this study showed acupuncture worked better and more quickly than intravenous morphine for reducing people’s pain in a medical setting.
This study joins a growing body of literature suggesting acupuncture is very effective at reducing pain and/or changing how our bodies experience pain. The lack of adverse side effects associated with acupuncture treatments presents a strong argument for its use, especially as synthetic medications are associated with many negative side effects and people are often allergic to the medications.
Because acupuncture affects our brains, stimulating the release of natural pain-reducing hormones, it can be used for any number of afflictions that cause pain. Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins – neurotransmitters responsible for blocking the sensation of pain. The stimulation also releases other chemicals that either change how the body experiences pain or triggers the release of other chemicals that activate the body’s internal regulating system. It is thought that acupoints are more densely packed with nerves than other points on the body, so stimulating these points sends more signals along the nerve networks in our body to cause this release of chemicals.
This process has a normalizing effect on nerves and hormones. By bringing the body into better biochemical balance, acupuncture promotes physical and emotional well-being and supports the body’s natural healing abilities.
Acupuncture and TCM also address the root causes of pain rather than just masking the symptoms. We develop treatment plans that are unique to each patient because each patient comes in with a unique body, health history and root cause behind their pain. By addressing the root causes, we create more lasting healing and bring your body back to a place where it can function optimally, using its natural healing processes to help you stay well.
Statistics show that almost eight out of 10 people experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50 percent. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. This can also be attributed to the fact that many people suffer from low-grade dehydration because they don’t drink enough water and they don’t ingest enough healthy fats that keep the muscles and tendons loose. It is also very well known that in the United States, people are too sedentary, and this leads to excess weight gain that can create added pressure on the body, especially the low back.
Studies have shown acupuncture stimulates the body to produce natural steroids that reduce inflammation. Acupuncture also increases the production of endorphins, which are helpful in reducing pain. In this way, acupuncture can be very helpful in preventing costly surgeries or prescription pain medication addiction. If a person seeks out acupuncture treatments when the low back pain is acute, it can potentially help them avoid chronic pain.
Along these lines, there are also some things that can be done at home to help with low back pain. Acupressure uses the same concept of acupuncture without the needles. By applying pressure to specific acupoints with either a finger or a smooth rounded instrument, it is possible to decrease low back pain until an acupuncture treatment can be scheduled. Here are three acupoints that can be used to help with low back pain.
- Large Intestine 4 – This point is located bilaterally on the back side of the hand, in the webbing between the forefinger and the thumb. When the hand is made into a fist, the point can be located in the center of the mound of flesh that is created. This point is used for relieving pain anywhere in the body.
- Gallbladder 34 – This point is found bilaterally on the outer side of the lower leg. It can found in the depression that is in front of and below the head of the fibula. This point is known as the influential point of the tendons.
- Urinary Bladder 40 – This point is located bilaterally on the crease behind the knee, right in the center, directly behind the knee cap. This point helps relieve pain along the spine. It is helpful for relieving muscle spasms and reducing pain associated with sciatic nerve involvement, which stems from the low back.
Self-acupressure is an effective way to help relieve low back pain when you are unable to get in for a treatment. These three points can also be used on a regular basis in between acupuncture treatments to help keep low back pain at bay. Regardless, chronic low back pain should be evaluated to make sure that there are no structural issues that may require surgery. Ask me about acupressure if you’re curious!
A 2017 study from researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine helps to show how electroacupuncture can stimulate tissue repair after an injury and relieve pain through a specific neurological mechanism. Over 40 scientists at research institutions in the United States and South Korea collaborated on the study. Through a series of tests, first on horses and then humans, the final study offers the most comprehensive view yet of how electroacupuncture stimulates the release of stem cells, special cells that develop into a variety of kinds of cells and repair cells.
The first uses of electroacupuncture are attributed to a Chinese doctor, Tang She-cheng, in 1934. In the West, the term is attributed to Dr. Roger la Fuye of France in 1947.
Electroacupuncture uses the same principles as acupuncture, which involves inserting fine, sterile needles at specific points on the body. In electroacupuncture, however, practitioners add a small electrical current to the inserted needles, rather than simply stimulating the points by tapping or gently twisting the needles as they’re inserted.
Through brain MRIs, this research showed electroacupuncture activates the hypothalamus – a part of the brain responsible for controlling the nervous system and subconscious functions like the heart rate. Electrical stimuli from the needles reached the brain of the subjects within nine to 22 minutes, depending on the species. From there, reparative stem cells, called mesenchymal stem cells, were released into the bloodstream within two hours. These cells can differentiate into bone, cartilage and muscle cells, among others, aiding in repairing injured areas of the body. In order to access this response, researchers administered the electroacupuncture at specific acupoints related to the immune system.
The study found increases in a type of collagen that promotes tendon repair, which contributes to research looking to better understand stem cells. The collagen also produces anti-inflammatory cells known to be predictors of faster healing time.
We’ve all been there – you have the best of intentions to do something positive or productive (go to the gym, make healthy dietary changes, start working on a new project around the house, finish a work assignment, study for an upcoming test) – but you end up spending hours procrastinating, making excuses to yourself and not doing the thing you need to get done. Why is it so hard to get motivated sometimes?
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, lack of motivation may stem from multiple different types of energetic imbalances in the body – and how to overcome that lack of motivation depends on what type of imbalance is holding you back.
You are stuck.
In TCM theory, the liver energy system is in charge of the “smooth flow” of Qi, or energy, throughout the whole body. When liver Qi flows smoothly, we are physically and mentally healthy, vibrant and on top of our game. But when liver Qi gets stuck, a whole lot of problems can ensue, such as neck and shoulder tension, headaches, irritability, impatience and lack of motivation.
This type of lack of motivation is the kind where it is hard to get something started…but once you start, you feel so much better and have no problem continuing. A perfect example is wanting to exercise, but having a really hard time motivating yourself to get out the door because you feel tired and angsty. However, if you overcome that feeling and push yourself to exercise, you will notice your problem with motivation decreases drastically, and you’ll feel like a different person when you come back home. This is because the original problem was that your Qi was stuck – and exercise got it going again.
The liver energy is also related to our ability to plan, create a vision for the future and set goals. When the liver energy is stuck, it is harder for us to see how our daily tasks relate to the future we want for ourselves.
Physical movement helps motivation problems connected to Qi stagnation. Push yourself in your workouts to clear your head and overcome the stagnation, or take a break at work and go for a walk to regain your motivation and focus.
You are damp.
Dampness is a concept somewhat unique to TCM. It refers to an abnormal processing of fluids in the body. These fluids coalesce in various places – for instance, when dampness accumulates in the joints, there may be joint pain that is worse in rainy weather. When dampness accumulates in the mind, it can lead to a lack of motivation.
This type of problem with motivation is associated with a lack of mental clarity, foggy-headedness, a general feeling of sluggishness and an inability to keep focused on any given task. Dampness is slow and cloudy, and creates a haze over our mental functioning. This extends into our ability to start tasks, as well.
To overcome a lack of motivation associated with dampness, it is important to look at environmental factors that may be making you damp. Are you living in a damp house? Are there things you can do to clean up that aspect of your living area? For instance, consider using a dehumidifier if you live in a basement apartment, or adding houseplants and natural sources of light to your space.
It is also very important to look at your diet. If you are struggling with dampness, avoid dairy, sugar, and fatty or greasy foods. Also eat warm, cooked foods as much as possible, and limit your intake of raw or cold foods, which tax the digestive system and can lead to dampness.