Low back pain – the Chinese medicine view

low_back_painWhenever there’s back pain, there is some kind of disordered flow of “Qi” (energy) and “Blood” in the channels in the lower back region. The channels may be in spasm, or may not be adequated “nourished” with Qi and blood. This can happen for a few different reasons:

First, traumatic injury to the low back region, of course, can also directly interfere with blood circulation in the region. It often causes a type of pain we call “blood stagnation” pain – often sharp, stabbing or fixed, and the low back may feel tender to touch (as opposed to feeling great when someone’s putting pressure to massage it). Blood stagnation type pain may include acute strains, spasms, or pain from a herniated disk (if pain is sharp). Acupuncture and associated techniques (blood-letting, cupping) can be very effective in moving stagnant Blood.

Second, Chinese medicine is unlike Western medicine in including environmental factors in its analysis. For example, “Cold” or “Dampness” in the environment can easily lodge into the channels of the low back. This may happen after lying on damp ground, walking around in cold or damp weather without adequate layers, wading in the water, or being exposed to the wind soon after sweating profusely (e.g. after exercise). If the pain is worse with cold or damp weather, or if the back feels cold or heavy, we know these climatic factors are part of the clinical picture, and may use moxa (an herb that often gets burned over acupuncture points), a heat lamp or pad, or warming herbs to help improve low back energy circulation. More rarely, Dampness can also combined with or generate “Heat” which would cause a more burning, heavy pain, and may be accompanied by thirst and/or dry stool or constipation. In either case it is important to eat appropriately to eliminate the Cold, Dampness or Heat.

Finally, if the back pain is chronic, dull, and had a gradual onset it’s likely due to a gradual decline of energy in the “Kidney-adrenal” system. The Kidney-adrenals can be weak due to: aging, prolonged stress or emotional trauma, prolonged illnesses, inadequate rest, excessive ejaculation, multiple childbirths or pregnancies, constitution (genetic / congenital factors), or chronic taxation of the digestive system (through irregular eating, or excessive eating of difficult to digest foods such as dairy, sweets, wheat, cold and raw foods.) Acupuncture, herbs, dietary / lifestyle changes, and regular Qi gong practice can all improve the strength of this system. You can download my handout on the Winter season, which includes some information, recipes and Qi Gong exercise, to support the Kidney-adrenal system.

I usually use a combination of acupuncture points to (a) treat the root imbalance causing the back pain, (b) help Qi and Blood flow in the the affected channels – using local points (i.e. on the back itself) and distal points (usually on the arms or legs), (c) address trigger points in muscles that commonly refer pain to the lower back (e.g. the iliopsoas, paraspinals, quadratus lumborum, gluteals, etc.). This multi-pronged approach is generally quite successful to manage the pain. Length and frequency of treatments dependent on the type of back pain present and how chronic it has been. Feel free to contact me for a free 15 minute phone consultation at 416-890-7770.

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Huge Grand Opening Sale! (20% off for everyone)

I’m pleased to announce the Grand Opening of a second location! In addition to downtown Toronto (St. George & Dupont), I will be offering treatments every Wednesday (9:30 am to 4:30 pm) at 1110 Sheppard Ave East, Suite 402 in North York (Leslie and Sheppard). Come on in for support in managing stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic pain, fatigue, digestion, and reproductive/menstrual health!

The office is shared with two neurologists and EEG lab, and I am excited to integrate Western biomedical approaches with practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine. Having studied Cognitive Neuroscience in university, it will be fascinating for me to reunite with the world of biomedical neuroscience. Biomedical science is currently limited in being able to understand “Qi” and acupuncture on its own terms (this may change with more integration of quantum physics into biological sciences), but interesting research shows some of acupuncture’s measurable effects on the nervous system.

To celebrate the opening of this location, I’m offering an unprecedented sale! All individual and package treatments are 20% off if bought before November 15, so treatments start at $47 + tax! The sale applies to both North York and Downtown Toronto locations, and to new and existing clients. I’d really appreciate it if you could share this news with family or friends you think might benefit.

Acu for Anxiety Discount Clinic (sliding scale event $30-$70)


Needles are nice!

Acupuncture needle-phobes and novices welcome! There is no better time to try out acupuncture in a gentle, friendly environment.  Come to the Acu for Anxiety Discount Clinic on Tuesday Oct 29, 2:30-8:30 pm in Downtown Toronto (St. George and Dupont, in the Annex). I’ve open up a couple more time slots for people!

de-stress to decolonize! (oct 21)

destress to decolonize logo


Want to get a wellness treatment or yoga class for a low, sliding scale price? Maybe check out a new healing approach you’ve never tried (cranio-sacral, Ayurveda, Reiki, or pranic healing)? AND, want to support a great cause at the same time?

Don’t miss DE-STRESS TO DECOLONIZE, a fundraiser in support of a grassroots gathering of indigenous and other racialized peoples. Click here for details!