The human back is very complex. The vertebrae are separated by cartilage discs and held together by muscles, tendons and ligaments.
It has to carry and protect the spinal cord, as well as carry the weight of most of your body, plus whatever you are carrying. It is capable of a wide range of movement: you can bend forwards and backwards, you can lean from side to side, and of course you can twist.
This means that there are many things that can go wrong.
There are several possible causes. The most common is probably lifting incorrectly, for example if you try to raise a heavy object while bending over and twisting. If you are lifting every day, perhaps as part of your job, it becomes even more likely.
Other sources include an unbalanced load on your shoulders, or an injury elsewhere in your body which distorts the way you walk.
The pain can be experienced either as a sharp stabbing or as a dull ache. It can strike in any part of the spine and surrounding muscles and can also travel down the leg, in which case it is usually called sciatica. It can interfere with many daily activities including sleeping, sitting and walking. If you are self-employed, it may have a significant financial impact.
So, what can be done?
As with all conditions, I begin by looking at the whole person, not just at the immediate symptoms. There are often some simple things that patients can do for themselves to help the problem, such as learning to lift and carry correctly.
Exercises can often help, although it is important to select those which are achievable, and not to overdo it: I can make recommendations here. And warmth is often helpful: a hot water bottle at night, a wheat bag neck warmer, or simply a scarf or kidney warmer can make a difference.
Each treatment programme is tailor-made to the individual. Acupuncture has a strong reputation in the treatment of back pain, especially in the lower back. I may work along meridian lines to clear blockages and stagnation of Qi. Or, for specific problems such as a neck pain, there are particular points which can be effective.
Tui Na (Chinese remedial massage) and cupping can be used to release and relax tight muscles. Moxibustion (moxa) is a way of applying heat to a particular area. And Gua Sha can be especially helpful when dealing with knotted muscles in and around the neck area.
Whatever the nature and cause of your back pain, I will work with you to find a treatment programme which is effective for you.
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