What?! You thought I meant another area of your anatomy?! I’m talking about the BACK! This week is “Back Care Awareness Week”, 8th – 12th October 2012, and to mark the occasion The British Acupuncture Council commissioned a nation wide poll about back pain. The results contained some surprising stats, with the increase of back pain in the under 35s, and some putting their back pain down to having too much sex!! Very saucy, but actually more in line with Chinese Medicine theory than you might imagine!
In Chinese Medicine we view back pain as being caused either by a deficiency of energy (or Qi) in the body, which feels like a constant dull ache or as though the back is weak; alternatively, back pain can come from a blockage of energy, which is like a spasm or a strong stabbing pain, that comes on quickly.
We tend to expect back pain from wear and tear in older people, this is because our Qi / energy, and Jing – which is the constitutional essence we are born with – naturally declines with age. Think of Jing as our “juicy stuff” – we get drier and more wrinkly as we get older! This reflects our natural decline in energy, Jing & Yin over a lifetime. But surprisingly, the study revealed an increase of back pain in the under 35s, particularly those aged between 18 and 24 years old – 4% visited a GP about their problem and were turned away without treatment – so it seems as though there might be some modern reasons behind younger people suffering with what is normally considered an affliction of middle age.
Things that might contribute to the deficiency type of back ache would include, overwork or burning candle at both ends – partying hard, or consistently working late and then going out on the town, repeating night after night without proper rest. All of these things deplete Yin – rest is really important to keep this topped up! Take a look at “Yin O’Clock” for my tips for “active resting”. Bad posture and things like sitting incorrectly at computer work stations in the office can also weaken the back over time.
The spasm type is usually more temporary and as it is caused by a blockage of Qi, it is often helped by movement – so this may be on the increase in younger people because they might not be getting enough exercise. Though this type can get worse after exposure to cold or damp weather – in the older age group, this tends to come from gardening or something similar, in the younger demographic, it might be down to things like sitting / sleeping on damp ground at festivals, or fashion trends like crop tops, exposing the midriff and lower back to the elements – sometimes high fashion just doesn’t go with the damp chilly British weather! Keep your Kidneys COVERED, they are the powerhouse for the warmth in your body! (See this TOP TIP for helping back pain in this week’s OK Magazine!)
Another big fashion trend may also be a culprit – the latest heavy or large “it” bag draped over one arm or shoulder puts uneven pressure on the spine, either straining it (so ladies get a spasm type pain in their backs), or weakening the strength in the back over time, creating the deficient dull ache.
And this is the bit you have been waiting for, right?! The sexy bit!! Incredibly, 2% of the entire group polled claimed their back pain was from having lots of sex, which is not such a strange concept in Chinese medicine and certainly applies to the younger age group! Even the ancient Chinese texts state that too much sex depletes the Jing, that core energy of the body – this core energy is important in nourishing and supporting the spine – so its not just acrobatics in the bedroom that could cause back pain, it could be the amount you’re getting! Tee hee!!
Sadly, nearly half of those polled (48%) rely on painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs to deal with their back pain, but only 12% tend to choose acupuncture or other natural remedies, like massage. What a shame! With the latest research on painkillers actually creating more negative side-effects if they are taken daily or on a regular basis, it makes seeking a healthier alternative even more important.
Acupuncture is a great alternative to painkillers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs, as it seeks to address the root cause of the back pain, and relieve it by boosting the energy that is lacking, or moving the stuck energy that is causing the pain. This differentiation of identifying EXACTLY what is going on in a patient’s body is the benefit of using acupuncture to treat back pain, and means the results are often better in the long term.
If you think acupuncture could help you with your back issues, please do get in touch – choose to NOURISH your body from the inside out, STRENGTHEN any deficiencies, and get HEALTHIER, as well as reducing pain!
© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012
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