Acupuncture treats back and neck pain
The phrase “a pain in the neck” became popular for a reason. Like back pain, neck pain is a very common complaint. And no one likes having either kind of pain. My father had chronic back pain while I was growing up, and I can say as an eyewitness, it drastically affected his quality of life. My father even tried having surgery to stop his back pain, but that didn’t bring relief. My father isn’t alone. According to published research, back pain is one of the most common reasons to miss work, is experienced by 50% of all Americans, and costs about $50 billion annually to treat.
Back and neck pain are tricky maladies despite being so common. There is a large postural component affected by the way we move, sit and lie down. There is a structural component when the bones of the spine and supporting musculature are affected. There is even an emotional component. Chronic stress can cause neck pain and chronic pain can cause stress and even depression.
Acupuncture can help treat back pain and neck pain on all three of these levels. When herbal medicine is incorporated in the treatment plan, pain relief is often increased and the treatment’s effects on the bone-level is improved too. Also, acupuncture works on both chronic and acute types of pain.
What are the symptoms of back and neck pain?
The symptoms of back pain and neck pain are similar, but occur in different parts of the spine. Most commonly, pain felt in the back and/or neck is similar to a muscle ache or spasm. Pain can limit a person’s range of motion, making bending, twisting, changing position or moving in other ways more difficult. Certain movements may also cause pain.
Back and neck discomfort may be fixed or may move around. Pain may also cause shooting or electric zing-type of sensations. There may also be shooting sensations down your leg in the case of sciatica. To read more about sciatica, visit this page on the subject.
If you experience chronic pain in your back that doesn’t respond to pain medication and is worse at night or when lying down, please contact your doctor. This combination of symptoms is often described by people with certain cancers. It’s also important to consult a doctor if your pain is related to a serious accident or injury.
What causes pain in the back or neck?
The most common cause of acute pain is muscle spasm and strain. Ligament strain is another possibility. Strains and muscle spasm are often related to physical activity, like heavy lifting. Stiff neck (as in torticollis) is caused by sleeping in an odd position or straining the muscles of the neck in other ways.
Another common cause of back and neck pain, but of the chronic sort, is bulging or ruptured disks. Disks are like cushions in the spine to help reduce shockwaves from impacts like your foot striking the ground while walking. When a disk bulges out of its usual space, it can compress nerves. Nerve compression causes discomfort.
Arthritis and osteoporosis are also causes of back and neck pain, although the do so in different ways. Arthritis often leads to spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces your nerves travel in on their way out of the spine. Instead of a disk pressing on the nerve like in bulging disk problems, bony growths press on the nerves. Osteoporosis creates discomfort as a result of compression fractures in the spine.
How will my doctor diagnose and treat back pain or neck pain?
Your doctor will likely use orthopedic and neurological tests, X-rays, MRI or CT scans, and/or electromyography (EMG) to diagnose your pain. These tests will help your doctor rule out other causes of discomfort.
Your doctor will likely prescribe acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs; ibuprofen, naproxen). Stronger medications like muscle relaxants or narcotics may be prescribed in cases of severe discomfort. Some doctors will suggest physical therapy, movement re-education and even surgery depending on the cause of the discomfort.
How does acupuncture evaluate and treat back pain and neck pain?
The first thing we do when you come for an appointment in my clinic is sit down for a long talk. The initial intake for acupuncture treatment is going to cover both your pain symptoms and your overall health. The location, quality, severity, and duration of your pain are all very significant and influence your Chinese medicine diagnosis.
I use the location of your pain to determine the affected acupuncture meridians, and then follow those meridians down their pathways to powerful points in the extremities. In the case of acute spasm, I would not apply acupuncture to the spasmed muscles. For chronic pain, I would apply treatment to the affected areas.
In addition to acupuncture, I use cupping, Guasha and Tuina medical massage to support treatments done in the clinic.
For treatment after you leave the clinic, I may suggest herbal medicine or nutritional supplements. I will likely also give you some Qigong exercises to do at home for stretching, pain relief and even prevention of future injury.