This year I have seen an increasing amount of people in the clinic with lower back pain (LBP). It’s a pretty vague term – there’s a lot going on connecting to the back; the spine, back muscles, pelvic muscles, muscles and tendons in the legs and the front of the body all play a part in a strong supple back.

So from my point of view the first thing is to try and work out where the pain is originating from – and to observe the body looking for signs that one group of muscles are working harder to compensate for another which might be under used. Then I look to see which acupuncture meridian these muscle groups correspond too and needle points along this channel both near the site of pain and then at the farthest point on the channel (on the tip of the toe for example). Sometimes more then one meridian is involved – the two most common are the ‘Foot Tai Yang’ meridian and the ‘Shao Yang’ meridian also known as the Bladder and Gall Bladder meridian. I find the Bladder meridian responds well to acupuncture but that the Gall Bladder meridian responds better to a bit of massage combined with the acupuncture.

Lower back pain linked to over active back muscles tends to respond well to acupuncture because the needles are very effective in relaxing tight muscles. I commonly see fit and healthy people with lower back pain which is greatly relieved by properly stretching out the backs of the legs after exercising – and this especially true for runners. Often I find the hip flexors are responsible, its easy to use these deep powerful muscles when trying to achieve a flat tummy instead of really working on the more superficial abdominal muscles. Tight hip flexors can tilt the pelvis and often this will show up as pain right at the base of the spine and sacral area. Acupuncture alongside some lovely stretches for the psoas muscles often works wonders. When dealing with pain resulting from degenerative changes like osteoarthritis, acupuncture can sometimes aggravate the pain if the muscles are loosened off too much. In these cases it’s always better to start very gently adding a couple more needles each session.

While loosening off tight muscles can often provide instant relief, to really prevent the pain from returning it is essential to learn to take the strain off the back by using all the other muscles effectively. I am a huge fan of Pilates for this and I recommend Hanna Dabbour a physiotherapist who runs Pilates classes all over Norwich. Her knowledge of the how all the muscles work together is second to none and she has helped many of my patients!

If you’d like to try acupuncture for LBP but are not sure if its right for you, please ring me on 07535 957577. You can also email me [email protected].