Acute Low Back Pain: A Chinese Medicine Perspective
What is Acute Low Back Pain
Low back pain (LBP) is the leading contributor to years lived with disability. Non-specific LBP is defined as low back pain not attributable to a known cause and represents 90–95% of the cases of LBP .
There are many causes that can lead to pain in the lower back. They fall into two categories:
Some possible causes of either mechanical or non-mechanical are:
- Muscle spasm (very tense muscles that remain contracted)
- Other medical conditions like fibromyalgia, kidney disease, etc.
- Disk rupture/herniation (can be in any disk/level of your spine)
- Small fractures to the spine due to osteoporosis
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
- Spine curvatures (like scoliosis or kyphosis), which may be inherited and seen in children or teens
- Strain or tears to the muscles or ligaments supporting the back
- Infection of the spine (osteomyelitis, diskitis, abscess)
- Cancer that involves the spine
- An abnormal aortic aneurysm that is leaking
- Arthritis conditions, such as osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Kidney infection or kidney stones
- Problems related to pregnancy
- Medical conditions that affect the female reproductive organs, including endometriosis, ovarian cysts, ovarian cancer, or uterine fibroids
- Testicular torsion (twisted testicle).
Symptoms of acute lower back pain include:
According to the Mayo Clinic  acute low back pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating pain. Sometimes it can feel like a jolt or electric shock. It can be worse when you cough or sneeze, and prolonged sitting can aggravate symptoms. Usually only one side of the body is affected.
Some people also have numbness, tingling or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot. There might be pain in one part of the leg and numbness in another part .
How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view Acute Low Back Pain
Lower back pain and sciatica can be discussed together as they share similar aetiology, pathology and treatment . In China, sciatica is a primary cause for hospitalisation and acupuncture is commonly used for managing neuralgia pain. It is reported to be effective in treating many types of musculoskeletal pain including lower back pain, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and sciatica . Lee et al. showed Acupuncture to be at least as effective as standard pharmaceutical medication .
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory views any pain as ‘obstruction’; typically, obstruction of Qi (body’s vital energy or bio-electricity) and Xue (Blood) in the channels and collaterals of the body. When blockage occurs due to a mechanical cause, qi and blood become blocked and this blockage is the sore of pain.
There are also organic pathologies (non-mechanical) that can cause pain, such as kidney disease, cancer, etc. Non-mechanical causes of acute low back pain are different according to disease patterns in TCM.
Causes of acute low back pain include:
- Invasion of Cold Dampness
- Kidney deficiency
- Liver-Qi stagnation
- Damp Heat invading the back channels
- Cold Dampness invading the back channels
- Stagnation of Qi and Blood
Each of these patterns will present differently, however, all will have an element of low back pain.
At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre our highly qualified and experienced practitioners will identify the specific pattern or patterns that are the root cause of the pain and develop a treatment program specifically designed for you. Simply call (02) 4573 0784
What You Can Do to Help Yourself
You may download the “10-Self-Help Guide to Reduce Back Pain and Increase Your Enjoyment of Life by Dr Danny T. Siegenthaler (Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner)” HERE
- Oliveira, C. B., Maher, C. G., Pinto, R. Z., Traeger, A. C., Lin, C. C., Chenot, J. F., van Tulder, M., & Koes, B. W. (2018). Clinical practice guidelines for the management of non-specific low back pain in primary care: an updated overview. European spine journal : official publication of the European Spine Society, the European Spinal Deformity Society, and the European Section of the Cervical Spine Research Society, 27(11), 2791–2803. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-018-5673-2
- Mayo Clinic (2021) Sciatica. URL:https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sciatica/symptoms-causes/syc-20377435 last visited 05 Jul. 2021
- Marciocia, G. (1994) The Practice of Chinese Medicine: The Treatment of Disease with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs, Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
- Qin Z, Liu X, Yao Q, et al. (2015) Acupuncture for treating sciatica: a systematic review protocol. BMJ Open;5:e007498. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007498
- Lee, J. H., Choi, T. Y., Lee, M. S., Lee, H., Shin, B. C., & Lee, H. (2013). Acupuncture for acute low back pain: a systematic review. The Clinical journal of pain, 29(2), 172–185. https://doi.org/10.1097/AJP.0b013e31824909f9