Back Pain

Back pain is a common problem for many people in the UK. Any part of the back can be affected, and there are a number of different causes for back pain.

Both Western and Chinese medicine doctors must first establish whether the problem is muscular, spinal, nervous in origin or caused by a disease of the internal organs. Once this differential diagnosis is made, an appropriate treatment plan can be formulated. X-rays, MRI scans or blood tests may be called for to establish the source of the trouble.

Generally speaking, back pain can resolve itself in a few weeks, however, this leaves patients in a situation where they are living with pain, which can be severe. It can also have a significant impact on daily activities, work and overall quality of life.

Conventional treatments include the use of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, or possibly steroid injections. These are all temporary fixes and will only provide short term relief, while masking the symptoms, and not treating the root cause of the problem.

The most common type of pain encountered is lower back pain or Lumbago. This affects the small of the back and can be brought on by injury or trauma relating to sporting or non-sporting accidents, from lifting heavy objects or sudden, uncommon movement, when muscles are strained or torn and go into spasm. In more severe cases, it may be caused by spinal nerve compression or a slipped disc. The pain is usually acute and severe, stopping a patient from standing upright or being able to move around normally.

Lower back pain can sometimes result from other musculoskeletal conditions and is an indirect consequence of another problem. Sciatica is one such example, where the primary pain may manifest in the buttock and leg, but can also refer into the lower back.

However, pain can strike all areas of the back including the middle and upper back, with pain around the scapula (shoulder blade) and mid/upper trapezius muscles being commonly seen in clinical settings.

Chinese medicine theory also holds the view that back pain can also result from causes not involving physical injury, and are generally considered to be related to the Kidneys. This may be Cold affecting the Kidney due to external invasion of Cold, or Cold due to deficiency of Kidney Yang. Elderly patients and others suffering with Kidney Yin deficiency may also present with lower back pain.

Treating Back Pain with TCM

In Chinese Medicine if it is a straightforward case of lumbago, acupuncture is generally very effective, particularly for acute conditions. If there is spinal trouble, some kind of manipulation may be necessary. Chronic lumbago, particularly in old people, responds well to Chinese Medicine treatment. In the majority of cases, acupuncture can usually be combined with Tui Na massage, and possibly cupping therapy. Continued research shows that acupuncture can be an affective treatment for lumbago.

Cases of chronic lumbago or other pain complaints generally respond favourably to a combined approach using the treatments described above, and offer patients a natural method of pain management and inflammation control.

A tincture, or herbs which can be soaked in wine or spirits during the winter, will be prescribed to warm the body, improve the circulation and stop the pain. Gou Ji (Rhizoma Cibotii), Niu Xi (Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae), Du Zhong (Cortex Eucommiae) or Wu Jia Pi (Cortex Acanthopanacis) are often used. Traditional Chinese medicine formulas taken as pills or decoctions can also be prescribed to patients.

For problems caused by injury, a different treatment would be given. These approaches can be combined with physical therapy such as Tai Chi, physiotherapy or mild exercise such as swimming.

If you wish to enquire about treatment or purchasing Chinese Herbal Medicines to help this condition please email us at