This alligator in Sao Paulo, Brazil is getting regular acupuncture for scoliosis related back pain and the veterinarian in charge of his treatment reports that acupuncture has been a huge success. How cool is that?
I love positive reports about animal acupuncture because people who try to debunk acupuncture's effectiveness often say that the only reason acupuncture works is due to the placebo effect. But if acupuncture can make a marked, noticeable and measurable difference in the pain and activity level of an alligator - who cannot consciously expect or intellectually believe that sticking needles in his back is going to change his pain - I feel very safe in saying that acupuncture works on a physiological level to change what the alligator is experiencing and how he is functioning. Wouldn't you agree?
Acupuncture for Back Pain at All Ways Well
I see a lot of back pain in my clinic, it is something I treat every week in and out without fail, and something I have been treated with acupuncture for myself on many occasions thanks to my past martial arts (injuries) and cardio kickboxing history.
In Chinese Medicine pain is always caused by stagnation in the local area and a main thrust of treatment is moving Qi and Blood to relieve pain. The stagnation can be caused by many factors - injury, energetic deficiencies especially in the Kidney as well as energetic excesses - and for long term relief and resolution a specific individual diagnosis and treatment plan must be formulated taking all of these things into account.
When I was a student we learned that a standard course of treatment for anything in China is 10 treatments in 10 days and then you reassess. Here is the US we find that virtually impossible and largely unnecessary. I usually see the average back pain patient once a week for 6 weeks and then reassess our treatment plan.
Acupuncture treatment for back pain often involves needling directly into the area of pain but not always. In my clinic, if something is very acute and painful I usually prefer distal (energetic indirect) treatment until the pain level is a 6/10 or below. Using TAN acupuncture methods I can balance the painful meridians, essentially emptying the excess fullness in the painful area, and can usually relieve pain by at least 50% in one session, sometimes 100%, though somewhere in the 60-80% range is more common. I have had rare occasions where one treatment takes care of the pain completely and it stays away, but it is more common to see relief after treatment and then a slide back towards pain in between. Our goal is to continue that stair step progression until a pain free plateau is reached and then we can decrease treatment and see how little treatment it takes to maintain that pain free state.
Something else I always recommend to back pain patients is Physical Therapy. I find both personally and professionally that nothing takes care of back pain faster than the combination of Acupuncture and PT. Acupuncture helps you get out of pain faster and balances your energetic body while PT ensures that you are not setting yourself up for repetitive motion injury in the future and that your core and posture are strong and correct to both resolve your pain and prevent recurrence.
My go to Physical Therapist is my husband, Brian Kitzerow DPT at Goodell PT in SW Portland though I do have contacts downtown and in SE for those who aren't in the SW area. What I really appreciate about my husband's approach is his strong background in Neurology and Biochemistry which allow him to see the body as an integrated neurological and biological whole beyond the anatomy and physiology which is the baseline for his profession. That plus his continuing education in manual therapy make him a highly effective therapist, especially for chronic pain conditions, and I find it very exciting what we can achieve together.
Do you know someone who has back pain or do you have questions about back pain treatment yourself? Please feel free to contact me anytime with questions or for a free consultation.
~Rebecca Hurwood, LAc
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