Various forms of lower back pain…
One of the things that can be a bit confusing about going for acupuncture treatment, is all the odd question… I have got used to the quizzical look I get from patients with some of the questions I ask, but honestly, there is method in the madness…
With acupuncture two people presenting with what seem to be the same condition won’t necessarily be treated in the same way. This is because Chinese theory is always trying to identify the underlying cause of a condition, not just explain what is happening at that moment.
Over the next few blogs I am going to start looking at common conditions and exploring the different syndromes we are trying to uncover from our list of questions. To begin lets look at one of the most common conditions I see as an acupuncturist – lower back pain.
Lower Back Pain Syndromes
1. Kidney Yin Deficiency
The lower back is governed by the Kidneys, therefore a deficiency in the energy of this organ can lead to lower back pain. Pain that come from a deficiency tends to be less extreme in nature than other causes. In the lower back, it generally presents with weakness and soreness. It is often provoked by doing too much – for example, standing or walking for long periods, and improves with rest. The knees, that are also linked to the Kidneys may also feel weak and sore.
Other symptoms that are indicative of Yin deficiency include:
- Feeling of heat especially in the evening
- Hot hands, feet and face
- Restlessness as if running on adrenaline
- Insomnia, particularly waking in the night feeling hot
- Infrequent, dark scanty urine
- Dizziness and vertigo
As you can see many of these symptoms are linked to being ‘too hot’. That is because the Yin, that is deficient, is the cooling energy of the system.
2. Kidney Yang Deficiency
With Kidney Yang Deficiency we see the opposite problem. There is not enough heat. The pain in the lower back is essentially the same, in that it is a deficiency type pain that is worse with activity and better with rest, but in this case warmth to the area will help. Other symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis of Yang deficiency are:
- Feeling of cold, especially in the back and knees – dislike and avoid the cold
- Tiredness and apathy
- Profuse and abundant urination
- Swollen ankles
- Low libido
3. Invitation of External Pathogenic Wind-Cold-Damp
The Kidneys are also particularly vulnerable to cold and because of this the lower back is a common spot for ‘External Pathogenic Factors’ to invade. This type of back pain tends to come on suddenly after exposure to cold – think about bending over gardening on a cold windy day. This type of backache characteristically presents with stiff muscles and limited movement. It is worse on cold damp days. The pain is intense, contracting and tight and there may be heaviness and pain in the lumbar region, which refer to the buttocks and legs. This type of back pain will be eased by heat packs or hot baths.
4. Stagnation of Qi and Blood
Finally, this type of lower back pain is not directly linked to the Kidney energy at all. It is also probably the most common of the four syndromes to present in clinic. That is because this is the type of lower back pain that usually follows and injury or accident of some kind. Bruising and inflammation leads to blockages in the energy and the blood flow, and it is this that leads to pain.
This type of lower back pain is severe and comes on suddenly. The pain is generally fixed in one place and the back is rigid and often in spasm. The pain is worse if you press on it and with movement or turning. Often the pain is also more intense at night.
As you can see there are some really quite different things going on with these four syndromes and the subsequent treatment is also different. However, in practice it is not uncommon to see a combination of syndromes at the same time – for example somebody who is suffering from Kidney Yang Deficiency is also more vulnerable to Invitation of Wind-Cold-Damp because of their lack of warmth, and someone who has any deficiency of the Kidneys is also more vulnerable to injury in that area.
To avoid lower back pain it is important to try and keep your Kidneys warm especially through the cold winter months and also to keep their energy strong with adequate exercise and rest. As with all things in Chinese medicine balance is the key…
For more information on lower back pains please follow the link to treat your own back.