Non-specific Low Back Pain (NSLBP): A Chinese Medicine Perspective
What is Non-specific Low Back Pain?
This is the most common type of back pain. About 19 in 20 cases of acute (sudden onset) low back pain are classed as ‘non-specific’. This is the type of back pain that most people will have at some point in their life.
It is called ‘non-specific’ because it is usually not clear what is actually causing the pain. In other words, there is no specific problem or disease that can be identified as to the cause of the pain. The severity of the pain can vary from mild to severe and may radiate to the lower limb.
The pain of NSLBP is in the area between the lower border of the rib-cage and the lower border of the buttocks.
What Causes Non-specific Low Back Pain?
Non-specific low back pain means that the pain is not due to any specific or underlying disease that can be found. It is thought that in some cases the cause may be a sprain (an over-stretch) of a ligament or muscle.
In other cases the cause may be a minor problem with the disc between two vertebrae, or a minor problem with a small ‘facet’ joint between two vertebrae. There may be other minor problems in the structures and tissues of the lower back that result in pain.
It is not possible to identify these causes of the pain by tests. Therefore, it is usually impossible for a doctor to say exactly where the pain is coming from, or exactly what is causing the pain. To some people, not knowing the exact cause of the pain is unsettling. However, looked at another way, many people find it reassuring to know that the diagnosis is non-specific back pain which means there is no serious problem or disease of the back or spine.
How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view Non-specific Low Back Pain?
In TCM any disorder is viewed holistically. That is, the body is viewed as an integrated whole. A TCM doctor will look for imbalances in the body to identify a pattern of disharmony.
Chinese medicine theory tells us that the Kidney’s rule the lower back, the Liver nourishes tendons and ligaments and the Spleen governs the health of muscles. Thus low back pain is frequently a result of disharmony between these organs and their associated acupuncture channels.
The three most common TCM pathologies of non-specific low back pain (NSLBP) are retention of Cold and Dampness, Stagnation of Qi (the body’s bio-electricity) and Blood from sprain, and Kidney (Qi) deficiency.
At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre we identify the specific TCM pathology responsible for the pain and use Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Massage and/or Exercise therapy to reestablish harmonious function between the affected organs and acupuncture channels.
What You Can Do to Help Yourself
There are several thing that may help to relieve NSLBP including:
- Rest, but not total bed rest. Move about but do not strain the back
- Hot packs placed on the painful area will promote blood flow to the area and may lessen the pain. If the pain is particularly strong or application of heat irritates or increases the pain, use a cold pack instead. It will help to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain in this circumstance
- Seek professional help from a healthcare professional if you are unable to relieve the pain using the methods described above.
- Download “Self-Help Guide to Reduce Back Pain and Increase Your Enjoyment of Life” HERE
At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre we are ready to help. Simply call (02) 4573 0784 to discuss what approach is best for your issue.
Lam M, Galvin R, Curry P. Effectiveness of acupuncture for nonspecific chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 Nov 15;38(24):2124-38.)