It’s good to see the western world motivated about what to do to help look after the health of the spine. This years theme for World Spine Day is “Your Back in Action” and there has been much promotion in regards as to how lack of exercise and poor posture contributes to back pain and spinal disorders. Traditional Chinese medicine has also looked at the importance of the spine and in this post I would like to share some knowledge about acupuncture and the spine.
Are there specific acupuncture points that treat the spine?
There are special acupuncture points that treat the spine and specific problems or diseases of the spine. One of the classic texts says that the spleen actually controls the spine and there is an acupuncture point on the spleen meridian called taibai that has the historical use of being used to straighten the spine. The meridian that runs up the spine is called the governing meridian and can be stimulated by using a combination of acupuncture points houxi and shenmai. More than one acupuncture doctor in China has used this combination to help scoliosis. I am surprised to hear that in the west acupuncture is not used initially to help scoliosis and instead opt for surgical intervention as first choice.
What about the spinal nerves and dermatomes and acupuncture?
Many centuries before the chiropractic profession started to popularise the method of treating specific vertebrae to influence the nerve that exited at that level, Chinese practitioners had been stimulating the spinal nerves as the result of the teachings from the great master Huatuo. Huatuo had discovered that the acupuncture points at specific vertebra levels treated problems corresponding to the distribution of where those spinal nerves went. Huatuo found this out more than 1000 years before the chiropractic profession. Dermatomes are areas where the spinal nerves distribute and for example could cause numbness or burning pain in areas of the leg such as seen in sciatica. Acupuncture could be used at the area of numbness as well as the corresponding vertebral level that is causing the problem.
What about moxibustion and the spine?
Moxibustion is used to stimulate blood circulation and to supplement the yang energy of the spine. The deep penetrating warming feeling to the spine is a favorite for many of my patients and all acupuncturists alike.
Did ancient Chinese physicians have special exercises to help the spine?
There are many exercises including tai chi, qi gong and kung fu stretching postures that have been used over the centuries to benefit the spine as well as special kidney exercises that are also used to help the spine. Chinese medicine says that the kidneys control the bones and the kidneys themselves are in close proximity to the spine.
Are there any Chinese massage techniques for the spine?
The paravertebral muscles going down the edge of the spine have a classification of acupuncture points on them known as shu points which can be used to treat problems in specific organs. They are also used to relax the muscles locally and thus help the spine. These points are rubbed and have direct pressure applied to them. Another technique is to grab hold of the skin above the spinal vertebra processes and and in a sort of pinching movement pull up and release the gas which creates a popping sound. Chinese medicine says that this releases stuck energy in the governing vessel that runs up the spine.
There are many acupuncturists who are members of Acupuncture NZ New Zealand who are qualified and experienced and may be able to help with back and spine problems.