Back pain is a common compliant characterised by local or referred pain, at the base of the lower back. In 1998, 40% of UK adults stated they had suffered from back pain lasting more than one day in the previous 12 months (Department of Health 1999).
Nearly 40% of UK back pain sufferers consulted their doctor; 10% visited a practitioner of complementary medicine (osteopaths, chiropractors and acupuncturists) (Department of Health 1999).
In 1999, back pain cost UK industry £5 billion ($8.5 billon) lost from 11 million days of absence and a loss of trained staff, whilst in the UK health service, it cost £481 million ($851million) from 12 million doctor consultations and 800,000 in-patient days (Donaldson 1999).
Causes of back pain
In orthodox terms lower back pain can be caused by a sprain, strain, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, a neoplasm or a prolapsed intervertebral disk. From the viewpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), lower back pain is known as Yao Tong and can be caused by either; trauma leading to the stagnation of Qi and Blood, invasion by pathogenic Cold, Wind and Damp or a deficiency of Kidney Qi (Valaskatgis 1982). As a general rule, lower lumbar pain is closely related to the Kidney (Weng and Hwang 1981). These conditions can be divided into excess or deficient syndromes. The invasion by pathogenic Cold and Damp is an excessive disorder resulting in the stagnation of Qi and Blood. Kidney Qi deficiency is a deficient syndrome (Maciocia 1998, p160). In all these instances the end result is the stagnation of Qi and Blood, causing pain.
Acupuncture for lower back pain
The mechanisms of acupuncture as analgesia are still unclear. Dr Pomeranz first discovered acupuncture analgesia caused the release of endorphins from the pituitary gland after a 30 minute period (cited in Gerber 1996). As Gerber (1996) explains the possible mechanism of acupuncture analgesia starts from the initial acupoint stimulation (‘de Qi’). Through the acupuncture meridian network, Qi energies are transformed into DC-current changes, which are then slowly transmitted along perineural pathways throughout the glial network. At the level of the brain, these changes in DC potential are also associated with neurochemical mechanisms (i.e. endorphin release) that mayp recede or coincide with the action-potential changes in individual neurons.
Acupuncture can help back pain by:
- Providing pain relief - by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord.
- Reducing inflammation - by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors.
- Improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility - by increasing local microcirculation, which aids dispersal of swelling and bruising. reducing the use of medication for back complaints.
- Providing a more cost-effective treatment over a longer period of time.
- Improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises.
How does acupuncture relieve back pain?
Watch the animated video below which explains how acupuncture relieves back pain.
Back pain acupuncturist
Dr (TCM) Attilio D'Alberto BM (Beijing), BSc (Hons) TCM, MBAcC, MRCHM
Dr (TCM) Attilio D'Alberto has been treating lower back pain problems for over 13 years and has great success in treating back pain.
Dr (TCM) D'Alberto graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine from Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in China after studying for 5 years.
Department of Health, Statistics Division 3. (1999). ‘The prevalence of back pain in Great Britain in 1998’, Crown, 18, p1-14.
Donaldson, L. (1999). ‘Jameson-Parkinson lecture “Public health and occupational medicine: the ties that bind’, Society of Occupational Medicine, Annual Scientific Meeting, University of Plymouth, Friday 16th July 1999.
Gerber, R. (1996). Vibrational Medicine. Santa Fe: Bear & Company.
Maciocia, G. (1998). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine-A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Valaskatgis, P. (1982). ‘The treatment of lower back pain’, Journal of ChineseMedicine, 9, p1-7.
Weng, C. & Hwang, H. (1981). ‘Acupuncture for the treatment of lower back pain’, American Journal of Acupuncture, 9, (2), p173-175.