Low back pain is incredibly common. According to the National Institute of Health, about 80% of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. While many people experience low back pain acutely or subacutely – that means for a few days to under 3 months – about 20% of people with low back pain experience it chronically for months, years, or decades.
Each case of low back pain varies greatly among my patients. Low back pain can be dull, achy, throbbing, sharp, stabbing, burning and electric, or a combination of the above. The pain can be constant or it can come and go. It can impact our ability to sleep, drive, sit, walk, stand, exercise, and generally enjoy life.
Just as the symptoms of low back pain vary, there is a long list of potential causes of low back pain. Traumatic injury, strains and sprains, disc herniation, disc degeneration, nerve compression or inflammation (radiculopathy), spinal stenosis, scoliosis, infections, tumors and more are all potential causes of low back pain. Most people with low back pain have a combination of overly tight (hypertonic) muscles and weak muscles.
Chinese medicine is effective for reducing or resolving low back pain. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to reduce local inflammation, relax tight muscles, release substances locally and systemically that regulate pain responses, and calm neuropathies. Other therapies such as electro-stim, topical herbs, cupping, and gua sha (press-stroking) may be appropriate depending on the case. Acupuncture complements physical therapy and massage.
A competent exam is the best first step in addressing low back pain. At All and One Acupuncture, we spend between 90-120 minute discussing your medical history and symptoms, doing a thorough orthopedic exam, and palpating the local tissues. Based on our exam, we are able to assess the likely cause of low back pain and treat accordingly. We refer out to orthopedists and physical therapists as needed.
Imaging studies such as x-rays and MRIs are generally not warranted in most cases of low back pain. MRIs are appropriate in cases of severe neurological symptoms or if spinal stenosis is suspected. MRIs are a useful tool when evaluating the appropriateness of surgery or injection therapies. However, research has shown that imaging studies typically do not explain the cause of pain, especially for nonspecific back pain. A person with a back that appears damaged in an imaging study might have very little pain, whereas a person without anything remarkable on an MRI might be experiencing severe low back pain.
We have a high success rate in treating low back pain. If you are one of the 80% of Americans experience low back pain, call All and One Acupuncture in Portland, OR to learn how we can help you.