Most of us experience the occasional lower back twinge, which is unpleasant enough, and I dread having to suffer through the more constant ache of real low back pain. It can be debilitating! And once you have low back pain you realize how much we use our backs for everything. So why is low back pain so common and how can East Asian Medicine contribute to its treatment?

There certainly are many factors accounting for the prevalence of pain in our modern lives. Often the source of the pain is a combination of things, ranging from a history of trauma (such as from a car accident or a bad fall) to more mundane reasons like a sedentary lifestyle, bad form when lifting, or awkward posture while using the computer, while reading, while driving, etc.

East Asian Medicine looks at the back a bit differently from Western Medicine. While our Doctors, Chiropractors and Massage Therapists typically may identify the source of a back problem in the musculoskeletal framework: a pulled muscle or a partially ruptured disk, East Asian Medicine often sees a combination of injury (stagnation) and a constitutional susceptibility to injury (underlying deficiency).

Stagnation, like it sounds, is a lack of circulation. But not just of blood; East Asian Medicine focuses on both blood circulation and the circulation of energy (qi). In fact, sharp, stabbing pain is usually seen as a blood circulation issue rather than qi. “Where there is stagnation, there is pain. Where there is no stagnation, there is no pain.” This a central tenet directing the treatment of pain conditions. If you move the qi and the blood to increase circulation, pain will decrease and the healing process can get underway.

But for most patients it's not just stagnation, there's a deficiency as well. This can be difficult to understand, but the simplest way to describe deficiency is as underlying constitutional factors. This can be anything from a genetic predisposition to bone or tendon problems - to poor diet - to inadequate rest and treatment for a prior injury. Whatever the cause of an initial injury and stagnation, if improperly taken care of, eventually leads to deficiency. As this continues the patient is more predisposed to re-injury.

So how can Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture help you and your back pain? They work wonderfully in concert to address the problem. Acupuncture is great at moving qi and blood to help the initial pain caused by stagnation. Chinese Herbs can help supplement and strengthen your body to attack the underlying deficiency. The two of these together make an approach with lasting effects, and which complements the Western musculoskeletal approach well.