Acupressure for Back Pain
Almost everyone at some point in their life experiences back pain and many of us end up developing chronic back pain. Whether it’s our neck, our back, or even sciatica, acupressure can help relieve and manage our pain. Fortunately, with a bit of reading and some palpation of our body, we can learn to use acupressure to decrease our back pain.
What is Acupressure?
Acupressure is a method of Traditional Chinese Medicine massage that focuses on balancing the Qi, or energy, of the body. While it shares the same fundamental theory as Acupuncture, acupressure relies on finger pressure, elbows, feet, or other blunt tools to stimulate acupressure points.
A recent back pain study at the National Taiwan University investigated the efficiency of using acupressure verse conventional Physical Therapy for the management of chronic back pain. The study was conducted for one month with chronic back pain patients and concluded that the acupressure patients had an 89% reduction in disability compared to the physical therapy test group.
Acupressure stimulation has been shown to have several observable effects:
- Acupressure can increase local blood circulation in the area of stimulation.
- Acupressure can cause the release of endorphins, which are our body’s natural painkillers.
- Acupressure points may coincide with the motor points of muscles, and acupressure on these points can cause the underlying muscle to relax.
Acupressure can be a great tool to help relieve your back pain and improve your health.
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain is commonly caused by tight muscles in the back, a sprain or strain of tendons or ligaments, spinal misalignments, or herniations of intervertebral discs. Unfortunately, most of these conditions are managed through the use of over-the-counter pain medications, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. While these medications can provide some temporary relief of back pain, they require continual use to manage the pain and do not provide any means of healing your back.
In Oriental Medicine, we believe that when the flow of Qi is blocked, there will be pain. By regulating the flow of Qi in the body, both acute and chronic back pains can be relieved. Local trauma is often the cause Qi and Blood stagnation in the back causing pain. However, a long-term condition of Kidney deficiency can lead to dull lower back pain, and is the most likely the cause in cases without trauma. Proper selection of acupressure points can invigorate our Qi and Blood and tonify our Kidneys to relieve our back pain.
If you have been experiencing chronic back pain, it is recommended that you seek a thorough medical examination to determine the precise cause of your condition.
How Can I Use Acupressure To Help My Back Pain?
Acupressure can be a great form of care for back pain. There are even several acupressure points that can easily be stimulated by us on our own bodies to help chronic back pain. While acupuncture charts are ideal to visualize the locations, we will discuss in detail the location of several points to help you find them on your body.
Acupressure points can balance the Qi of the back by either altering the local area or by adjusting the flow of Qi in the meridians, or energy pathways, that cross the back. While a discussion on the complex network of meridians is beyond our discussion, we can still use these points to provide relief of our back pain.
Urinary Bladder 23 and Urinary Bladder 52 are two local acupressure points that can be very beneficial in treating lower back pain by relaxing the low back muscles and tonifying the Kidneys. To find these acupressure points, place your hands on the small of your waist, just above your hip bones. Form your hands into a “C” shape, and position your thumbs pressing into your back with your palms resting above your hip bone. From here, we can feel the the paraspinal muscles level with the 2nd Lumbar vertebrae. The Urinary Bladder 52 acupressure point is located at the outer border of the paraspinal muscle. The Urinary Bladder 23 acupressure point is found in the center of the belly of this muscle, about midway from Urinary Bladder 52 to the spine. Apply steady pressure to both of these acupressure points until you can feel the underlying muscle relax.
LingGu is the Chinese name of an extra acupressure point found by a famous acupuncturist named Master Tung, and can be used to treat back pain. This acupressure point is especially useful in treating the condition of sciatica. To locate this acupressure point, look at the back of your hand where the two carpal bones of the thumb and finger meet. Guide your finger from the knuckle of your index finger along the bone inside your hand. You should find a tender spot at the end of this carpal bone. This point is most effective in acupressure for the opposite side of your body. So if you right lower back is worse, locate the point on your left hand. If you are a pregnant woman, avoid using this point as it is contraindicated in pregnancy due to its effect on increasing uterine contractions.
The area between Lung 5 and Lung 6 can be used as a reactive area to treat back pain. Massaging this area can balance the meridians along the spine, relaxing those muscles. We can locate the Lung 5 acupressure point by bending our arm at the elbow and holding our hand so our palm is faced upwards. In the crease of your elbow, on the radial (thumb) side of your bicep tendons is Lung 5. Press into the area between the edge of your elbow crease and the biceps tendon until you locate a tender point. To locate the Lung 6 acupressure point, imagine a line from Lung 5 down your forearm to your wrist crease on the radial (thumb) side of the palpable forearm tendons. Slightly less than half way between these two points is Lung 6. Massage the area between Lung 5 and Lung 6, finding and deeply pressing any tender areas you discover. The lower your back pain, the closer your will find the active acupressure points to Lung 5 at your elbow crease. Again, with these points you should treat the side of your body opposite to your back pain. If there is pain on both sides, you can treat acupressure points on both sides.
Helpful Tips for Acupressure for Back Pain
- Breathe deeply when performing acupressure on yourself.
- Focus your attention on the acupressure point as you apply stimulation to increase the effects.
- Acupressure stimulation should feel strong, but should not be an uncomfortable level of pressure.
- Gentle stretching exercises, such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong, can be beneficial for back pain conditions.
- Even though self acupressure treatment is helpful, receiving treatment from an acupuncturist can more effectively improve your back condition.