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Holistic Treatment of Back Pain

LOWER BACK PAIN RELIEF AND ATHLETIC INJURIES by Dr. Randy Martin, OMD, PhD, LAc, QME, CCH - Doctor of Chinese Medicine

Watching the Olympics brings up old memories for me. Some of you may know that I competed internationally for the United States in a few pre-Olympic events, both in high school and college, and that I was on a full gymnastics scholarship at USC.
As a direct result of working out for so many years and for so many hours per day, I had many gymnastics injuries. It was these injuries that were the primary reason I went to see my first acupuncturist—these injuries and a few auto accidents. Acupuncture was very effective at curing those injuries.
Flash forward…
A patient recently contacted me with the following question:
“I have recurring back pain that resurfaces once or twice every year,” he said, “and just recently, I have been seeing a chiropractor for the neck and shoulder pain I have as a result of a rear-end car collision. I was wondering, in your honest opinion, will acupuncture or other holistic medicine help me, and to what degree it can help?”
“Yes, acupuncture will definitely help to relieve your pain,” I answered. Then I went on to respond in a little more depth, because so many people do not realize how effective acupuncture really is for pain control and athletic injuries.
I had another patient tell me that after going to his chiropractor six times for a shoulder injury, it still hurt, but after only one acupuncture treatment, he was almost completely healed and was able to get right back to weight-lifting again.
Acupuncture works great on neck, shoulder, and back pain, whether due to auto accidents, sports injuries, or other more chronic problems. Usually when someone is not healing properly from a car accident or sports injury, it's because the injuring event catalyzed, or "kicked in" some deeper imbalance. The injury might actually be related to poor nutrition, stress, lack of sleep or exercise, lifestyle issues, or other problems that will become clear to me as I get to know you personally.
There are also certain emotional factors that usually accompany lower back pain. Since the lower back is controlled by the kidneys, Chinese medicine says that lower back pain involves the emotion of fear. (Each organ in the body has a corresponding emotion.)
There are two ways I approach treatments. Option A is to just do acupuncture. This works very well, especially if there are no underlying imbalances. Many people with back pain report that after a few treatments, they feel substantially better. Option B is for more stubborn problems that have been around for a longer period of time. For those, it’s best to have a longer consultation and devise a longer-term strategy, allowing me determine the underlying imbalances in your body based on your complete history, blood analysis, and diet or other lab work, in addition to the Chinese tongue and pulse diagnosis. Then we create a plan based on acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, supplements, and homeopathy.
Some of the most common herbs and supplements I might use for lower back pain in conjunction with the acupuncture include the following:
• Pain X – a great anti-inflammatory and pain killer
• PSI Nighttime – a good pain reliever which also helps with sleep when you are in pain
• Magnesium and calcium combination – provides vital vitamins and minerals to help bring down the swelling in the back and around the vertebrae.
• Back Pain (Lower) – a good Chinese herbal formula to strengthen the kidney yin and increase the circulation in the lower extremities and back

Some of the common homeopathic remedies used for lower back pain include the following:
• Mag phos – used as a muscle relaxer and to help with sleep
• Colocynth – helps with muscle cramping
• Rhus tox – indicated when the lower back pain is better after you begin to move around a lot
• Bryonia – indicated if you are better not moving around, just lying still in bed

After the initial problem is better, I usually see people monthly for a tune-up acupuncture treatment and to assess if the herbal, homeopathic, and nutritional program is holding. If it stops working, then we sit down to figure out why and create a new and different program.
With normal life stress, most people can really benefit from getting on a program like this. If you want just a quick solution, and you don’t stick to it over the long-term, it might not work. Many of my patients start with just acupuncture alone, and when they see how effective acupuncture really is, they then choose to delve deeper into more of the underlying issues.
I like to work as a team with practitioners of other holistic modalities, so if you are already having good results with your chiropractor, I would suggest sticking with him or her while adding the other treatment methods. It’ll result in a more effective and longer-lasting healing effect. I like my patients to get massages, chiropractic treatments, and sometimes counseling or therapy. It’s also important for patients to have an MD whom they trust and who is open to working as a team. This teamwork approach will be much more effective than any single type of treatment would be on its own.

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