Did you know acupuncture has been shown to significantly reduce back pain in clinical trials? Due to the accumulating evidence for its effectiveness, acupuncture is included in many clinical guidelines for the treatment of low back pain. Not surprisingly, as an acupuncturist, not a day goes by that I don’t treat low back pain, whether it is due to an injury, pregnancy, or a sedentary lifestyle. Here are five recommendations that I make to all my patients regardless of the etiology of their back pain.
1. Do Cat-Cows
It is very common for people with low back pain to have very tight mid-back muscles. Lack of flexibility and poor hydration of the muscles in the mid-back can create added pressure on the low back. To increase flexibility in the back, practice Cat-Cow stretches in which you get on your hands and knees and slowly curve your back up and down while taking slow, deep breaths.
2. Soak Your Feet
Soaking your feet daily for 10-15 minutes in a hot foot bath helps promote circulation to the lower body, including the low back. In all cases of low back pain I find that circulation is diminished. In Chinese medicine there is a saying “Where there is stagnation there is pain, and where there is pain there is stagnation.” This means if blood isn’t flowing efficiently to the local tissues, pain will follow.
3. Drink Hot Water
Proper hydration is important for optimal muscle tone and flexibility. Hot water, in particular, helps to hydrate and nourish the muscle, while also promoting circulation.
4. Stretch the SI Joint
Often when a new patient comes in with low back pain, the source is the problem is actually the SI joint rather than the lumbar spine. In order to address the pain, treatment and home exercises should focus on stretching and relaxing the SI joint ligaments that connect the sacrum to the ilium bone of the pelvis. Due to sedentary lifestyles the ligaments become very taut and “cranky.” Try the “Figure 4” stretch or pigeon pose to release the tension in the ligaments and improve alignment of the bones and muscles of the low back and pelvis.
5. Start Squatting
In addition to the SI joint, inactivated gluteus muscles can cause mechanical imbalances, which result in low back pain. Doing 20-30 squats, 1-2 times per day can help strengthen the gluteus muscles and stretch the ligaments of the SI joints to improve structural stability of the pelvis and low back.
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