BACK AND NECK PAIN
No Drugs Required
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 dad had chronic back pain while I was growing up, and I can say as an eyewitness, it drastically affected his quality of life. My dad isn’t alone. According to published research, back pain is one of the most common reasons to miss work, experienced by 50% of Americans & costs about $50 billion a year 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 signs and symptoms associated with 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 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 within on their way out of the spine. Instead of a disk pressing on the nerve like in bulging disk problems, bony overgrowth can 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 orthopaedic 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. Unfortunately these therapies are symptom-oriented and often just mask the pain without resolving the cause. 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 the signs & symptoms associated with back pain and neck pain?
The first thing we do when you come for an appointment in my clinic is sit down (or walk around) 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, as well as the health of your other organ systems, are all very significant and influence your Chinese medicine diagnosis and treatment.
We will 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 often do not immediately apply acupuncture to muscles in spasm, choosing to treat adjacent and distal points first. For chronic pain, we are more likely to apply treatment at the affected areas.
In addition to acupuncture, we use Cupping, Guasha and Tuina medical massage to support treatments done in the clinic.
For treatment after you leave the clinic, I may suggest internal or topical herbal medicine or nutritional supplements. we will likely also give you some exercises or qigong to do at home for stretching, pain relief and even prevention of future injury.