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by Maureen Cromey
An Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Expert
Many years ago when I first started training as an acupuncturist it was considered an unusual career choice; it wasn’t fashionable, just odd. I'd be introduced to people with a knowing nod, “Oh you're the lady with the pins” swiftly followed by, “Do you think it works?” Then the softener, “My Mum (or ex-girlfriend or Aunty) had acupuncture for their back and THEY FELT BETTER, it worked. In fact, it has never been a problem since”.
Acupuncture is fantastic at treating back pain. Acupuncture practitioners and our patients have always known this; in fact even annoying blokes at parties seem to know this. What has been very pleasing in recent years is that research has caught up with us.
Research has shown that acupuncture is at least as good if not better for treating back pain then standard medical care which includes physiotherapy and orthopaedic interventions. As a result of this research it is recommended as an NHS treatment for 'non-specific lower back pain'.
The other wonderful piece of research shows that after treatment back pain continues to improve long after the acupuncture had ceased. In other words the person continues to heal. This has been considered an amazing effect, but from an acupuncturists perspective it is what we would expect.
If you have back pain we, the acupuncturists, work to unblock stagnant qi and tonify deficient kidney energy. We may even clear damp and cold from your bladder and kidney channels which run down the back. Blocked qi, deficient kidney, damp and cold are the Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) reasons for back pain. It sounds strange because we are using a different type of language, a different health model or paradigm compared to conventional medicine. TCM looks at the causes of disease and back pain as being related to how we are living and the condition of our overall health.
Acupuncture treatment for back pain uses fine needles along the back and in arms and legs, often the back is warmed with moxibuston and cupping is used to deeply massage and clear blockages. Lifestyle is considered and changes suggested, to help improve health and happiness. Usually there are gentle exercises to keep energy moving and nourished. It is very effective and relaxing. Improvement builds over a few sessions and the effects are lasting. There are some back problems that are difficult to treat. They respond slowly and may need more treatments or a combination of therapies; it is very rare that there is no benefit from acupuncture.
Back pain can affect anyone at any age and most people will suffer from it at some point in their lives. It is the UK’s leading cause of disability and one of the main reasons for work-related sickness absence. Given the statistics it is very likely that you or someone close to you suffers from back pain. It is tiring, debilitating and it can be very depressing.
Acupuncture is effective, try it.