Back pain is the No. 1 reason people seek medical help as well as seeking acupuncture. There are several different approaches and methods to treating lower back pain, which is ideal, as 8 out of every 10 people will have low back pain at some point in their life.
One technique used is called moxibustion, or moxa. Moxibustion involves burning of mugwort, a small spongy herb, to aid healing over specific acupuncture points. Asthma, colds and influenza, irritable bowel syndrome, disorders of the spinal column, breech pregnancy, and pain are just a few medical conditions Moxa is also used to treat.
There are two types of moxibustion, direct and indirect. Direct moxibustion uses a small cone shaped amount of moxa and is either burned completely down to the skin or is placed on the point and lit, but is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin. Direct moxibustion gives patients a pleasant warming sensation and penetrates deep into the skin. In indirect moxibustion, a moxa stick is lit and held close to the selected acupuncture point until the area turns red. This is the most popular form of moxibustion as there is a much lower risk of pain or burning.
Cupping is a form of alternate medicine in which a special cup is placed on the area of pain or tension to create suction. The suction or pressure is applied to the points that are in pain to increase blow flow, which ease the muscles and help to supply nutrients and oxygen that your body needs. Cupping differs from typical massage therapy as it uses suction to tug the skin, tissues, and muscles upward forcing blood to reach the areas in pain instead of exerting pressure on points of the body for healing.
Results of Cupping:
Promoting the flow of blood to the muscles and tissues, and removing stagnation.
Supplying oxygen and nutrients to the cells
Softening the tightened muscles
Loosening of adhesions and knots
Lifting the connecting tissues
Opening the blockages of the lymphatic nodes and easing the flow of lymph
Releasing and draining of excess fluids and toxins like lactic acid from the tissues and cells
Drawing inflammation from the deeper tissue to the surface of the skin so they can heal
Stimulating and later, calming the peripheral nervous system
Eliminating chronic congestion
Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling is another method of pain relief and healing in lower back pain. Types of compresses include heating pads, hot patches, and body wrap warmers. Hot compresses help to loosen up the back muscles and relieve tension. Warm compresses are also good for back stiffness and muscle spasms as they are used every few hours throughout the day until discomfort begins to ease away.
Cold compresses help to relieve inflammation, swelling, pain, and aches. Cold compresses that are useful for lower back pain include ice packs, cold cloths, cooling body wraps, and cold baths. Some back problems even call for the combination of hot and col compresses.
Dr. Jane Catania, DACM
Board Certified & Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist Trained in China & U.S.