Back pain is an extremely common—and debilitating—complaint. Eight of 10 people will experience back pain at some point in their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health Medline Plus website. The traditional Chinese medicine--TCM--practice of acupressure point massage can help speed healing and get you on your feet again. Acupressure is not a replacement for conventional medical therapies; talk to your doctor.
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Your body is the product of a marvelous interconnecting pathway of energy channels, also called “meridians,” according to traditional Chinese medicine. These channels nourish each organ of the body, notes Iona Teeguarden, Jin Shin Do acupressure practitioner and co-author of “A Complete Guide to Acupressure.” When energy or qi flow becomes blocked, symptoms of illness—including muscle pain—arise. Acupressure disperses blocked qi and causes fresh qi to flow abundantly, allowing healing to take place.
The causes of back pain, according to traditional Chinese medicine, are different than those your Western doctor might identify. When you age, or if you’re sick for a long time, your body can become depleted of energy, writes Philippe Sionneau, TCM practitioner in Paris, France, and Lu Gang, acupuncturist and lecturer for Hubei College of TCM in Wuhan, China. In their book “The Treatment of Disease in TCM: Diseases of the Neck, Shoulders, Back and Limbs,” Sionneau and Gang note that qi depletion leaves your body undernourished, a condition that can cause pain in the back. Exposure to cold can further complicate a lack of qi. If you exhaust yourself, the book says--especially through excessive sexual activity--you further expose yourself to qi deficiency and the potential for back pain.
Acupressure can successfully treat back pain and restore lost mobility, according to a 2006 article published in the British Medical Journal. Study authors Lisa Li-Chen Hsieh and colleagues at the Institute of Preventive Medicine at National Taiwan University followed 129 patients with low back pain who were given acupressure or physical therapy for one month. At the end of the month, the acupressure group reported an 89 percent greater reduction in disability than the physical therapy group. The acupressure group maintained their higher functionality even six months after treatment ended.
The best way to experience acupressure for the first time is to go to an acupressure practitioner, who will be able to pinpoint the causes of your back pain and treat the appropriate areas. To locate a point on yourself, consult a pressure point chart. A point will feel more tender than the area that surrounds it. Once you’ve found a point, press firmly and hold it, or massage it in a circular motion. You’ll probably need to work on the point for a minute or more before you notice any significant effects, according to the website Eclectic Energies.
To ease back pain, work on the sacral points at the base of the spine. A collection of points sits in the area where the spine connects to the pelvis. Points sit close together in this area, so they are easy to find. If you can’t comfortably reach this area, lie on a hard surface—the floor will do—and position a tennis ball under the lowest part of the spine, advises Acupressure Online.