by Mariano Torres R.Ac / director of Integrated Therapies
One of the most prevalent and debilitating conditions I treat is lower back pain. Here’s a brief overview of how I address and resolve lower back pain problems with acupuncture and bodywork.
I have been a bodywork therapist for more than fifteen years. My expertise includes Shiatsu, Thai Massage and Tuina. I am also a registered acupuncturist with additional training in sports medicine acupuncture for orthopaedic disorders.
This is by no means intended to explain either every step of every treatment or the intricacies of Chinese medicine and acupuncture, but only to illustrate typical treatments for lower back pain.
Acute vs chronic back pain
When addressing lower back pain, it’s important to differentiate between acute and chronic conditions. An acute condition may be an injury that happened a few days or weeks ago or a sudden pain that started recently. A chronic condition is pain that is recurrent or constant and has been present for more than three months.
As a rule, acute issues are easier to treat because the body is still strong and hasn’t been debilitated by ongoing pain. A body with chronic pain is weakened both by pain and by compensatory abnormalities or restrictions in movement. Chronic lower back pain may be the result of an old injury, bad posture, improper diet, stress, lack of exercise, or digestive or menstrual problems. All applicable causes must be addressed to correct the condition.
Once we assess and identify the type of pain, we can decide what kind of treatment is appropriate.
Assessment starts with diagnostic questions then moves on to orthopaedic and muscle imbalance testing. Diagnostic questions explore the history of the pain and identify symptoms and lifestyle considerations. The orthopaedic assessment addresses the alignment of the hipbones and sacrum. In 90% of cases where lower back pain is present, there is a structural misalignment that needs to be addressed.
We first check the position of the hipbones. They may be tilted to the front (figure 1), which causes constriction of the lower back, or to the back (figure 2), which causes weakness and poor stability in the lower back.
We then test the sacroiliac joint for movement. The sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum bone to both hipbones or iliac bones (figure 3). It is often locked on one or both sides when lower back problems are present.
Finally, we conduct muscle testing to reveal which muscles are weak or not firing well, and which muscles are working
harder to compensate, causing fatigue, weakness, pain, and misalignment. Muscle malfunction can be either the cause of the problem or the result of an alignment issue. For example, if the gluteal muscles are weak, the hip will tilt forward because they cannot hold it in the correct position.
In Chinese medicine, we address acute pain as “Blood and Qi Stagnation”, which is a lack of movement of blood and flow of energy. The stagnation of energy and blood is caused by a blockage in the injured or painful area, and treatment is focused on re-establishing the movement of blood and energy to remove it.
In the case of chronic lower back pain, we primarily address the kidney energy in the body. A common symptom of deficient kidney Qi is lower back pain. In Chinese medicine, kidney energy is the main source of strength and the capacity to thrive. By strengthening that energy, we help the body to heal itself.
Acute lower back pain usually requires one to two treatments weekly for a few weeks, while chronic pain might need one treatment every ten days for up to several months.
Each ninety-minute treatment works toward correcting the issues identified during the assessment and addressing any constitutional issues that are present.
A typical example
A client complains of being tired and having pain in the right hip that radiates down the leg (commonly called sciatic pain). During the orthopedic assessment, we discover that the client’s sacroiliac joint is locked on the right side, and that the right hip is tilted forward. Muscle testing reveals that the gluteal muscles are weak and the psoas muscles are not functioning well, especially on the right side.
- unlocking the sacroiliac joint by inserting needles at key points
- resetting muscles by inserting needles in the motor points to restore firing
- addressing the anterior tilt of the right hip by inserting needles in specific point combinations
- releasing the root nerve of the psoas and gluteal muscles by inserting needles close to the vertebrae
- addressing the constitutional issues with point combinations that correct weak kidney energy
- deep tissue massage in the area
- stretching and decompression of the lower back, legs and feet (Thai Massage style therapy)
- acupressure in certain areas of the hips and back (Shiatsu style)
After the initial session, we will conduct a reassessment to see if the alignment has changed, and make recommendations for a treatment plan.
Read more about Mariano
If you like to book a first treatment and assessment with Mariano please call the clinic at (780) 432-4803 or book online: “Acupuncture first treatment and assessment” he will combine acupuncture and massage.
Some client comments:
“Mr. Torres is an individual with the power to enhance, or change your life. His knowledge and skill with the mind and body of a patient provide relief from discomfort, peace of mind, and nurturing for the soul. In my times of pain he has been a provider of wonderful relief, spirit, and positive energy.
He is well versed and skilled in traditional western therapies, as well as traditional healing techniques – and whether you are a believer in alternative medicine and therapy or not, Mariano is a practitioner of great warmth. He is truly one of the healers who has made a direct and lasting impact on my quality of life.
I cannot recommend him highly enough – as a practitioner, or as a person.”
“I have had various treatments recently at Integrated Therapies and would highly recommend the therapists that I have had treatment with :-
Mariano Torres treated me for pain in my lower back that was becoming so intense, any kind of movement was difficult. He has a warm, kind manner that with his sensitivity and knowledge of Acupuncture – holds a safe and caring space in which I could trust and totally relax. My back pain was greatly helped in the first appointment, and a day later, with rest, the nerve pain had completely gone. Mariano is a master in his field.
“When I came to integrated therapies, I had been experiencing pain in the left side of my lower back for over two years. I had seen and followed treatment with a physiotherapist and a chiropractor, but they were not able to really diagnose what was causing the inflammation. They were treating my symptoms and as soon as I would stop going, the pain would come back. When I started seeing Mariano, he found the root cause of my pain the very first day and worked from here. After a couple of sessions my pain started changing and then slowly releasing. He did not only ease up the pain, but taught me to create more awareness with my back. I am happy to say that I finished my treatment with him almost two months ago and I am pain free. Not only that, I can keep up with all my physical activities and not worry about how I am going to wake up the next day. He is really magical with those needles. I experienced him as very knowledgeable, kind and professional. I highly recommend him to anyone.”
“True healing experience with a true doctor! I had so much trouble with my back pain. I have gone to a drop-in clinic doctor for three months, a chiropractor, a physiotherapist (expensive and very well-known) and a masseuse. Nothing made changes. The back pain has only got aggravated over time. And I met Mariano and I finally feel that he really cares for me and is willing to work this out. I have no doubt that with his treatment I will get better and get back to my normal active life. He focuses not only on the regional pain you have, but also on the general wellness and balance of your body. If you are seeking for a more mindful, integrated approach to treating your pain, this is the right place.”
“I had my first acupuncture appointment with Mariano. My pain relief wasn’t instant but by the end of the next day, my pain was gone! I will make acupuncture with Mariano one of my “must have” treatments! Thanks Mariano! “
“Mariano is an exceptional practitioner of acupuncture and massage. He is highly skilled at assessing where the problem lies and how to approach treatment. I have had several types of treatment for physical problems and his technique is definitely superior. I have felt significantly better and look forward to more treatments. Thank you so much Mariano.” S.D.