A herniated disc is where the soft jelly like material between the spinal vertebra bulges out resulting in back pain. It is most commonly caused by over lifting. When the nerves coming out of the spine become compressed by the protruding disc, pain results. This pain can very severe and depending on the severity of the bulge, surgery is often the only solution that western medicine has to offer. Acupuncturists have been treating this condition for centuries and of course did not know that the disc had actually protruded.
This is because ancient physicians did not have access to MRI and X-Ray machines 2000 years ago ! But they did observe and understand that certain back injuries resulted in pain as well as numbness affecting certain parts of the leg and developed appropriate treatments to relieve this. Modern China has made much advancement in the treatment of disc herniation with acupuncture and the rate of surgery for disc herniation is in fact much lower in China than in the west.
The cost effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for disc herniation verses surgery and the additional associated rehabilitation costs has been observed in China for some decades. The ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) in New Zealand does cover an initial course of acupuncture for this condition but unfortunately most patients are still recommended to follow the surgery process. There is quite some time involved in waiting to have the recommended surgery when a number of courses of acupuncture could have actually eliminated the need for surgery in many instances.
Recent research in China confirmed that acupuncture in conjunction with related traditional Chinese medicine modalities such as tui na (Chinese massage) worked better than drug therapy for pain relief. In particular electro-acupuncture which involves connecting a small electric current to the needles is regarded as the foremost treatment method to relieve pain and promote rejuvenation.
Modern diagnostic techniques are now able to find the exact location of the protrusion which has led to modern acupuncture physicians using another treatment known as moxibustion. This where a special herb called mugwort is heated and held directly over the location of the disc involved. In traditional Chinese medical terms this increases energy and blood circulation to the area to stimulate a healing response. In western medicine, they do the exact opposite, and try to cool the area down using ice or prescribe anti-inflammatories.
Ancient Chinese physicians observed that the natural response to an injury like a slipped disc resulted in heat naturally occurring in the area. Modern science has actually shown that such an injury generates heat because of the inflammation response which then causes more stem cells to flow to the area to stimulate the healing process. Ironically western medicine then intervenes and provides treatment that is against the natural law of order. By prescribing anti inflammatory medication, the they are actually discouraging stem cells to go to the area to heal the condition. Western medical treatment is aimed at only reducing pain. Acupuncture is focused on stimulating healing and rejuvenation of the area and reduction of pain is a side effect.
In New Zealand the government owned insurance company, ACC, allows up to 20 acupuncture visits to be funded in the treatment of herniated discs. Acupuncturists working from The Acupuncture Clinic in Napier and Masterton are members of the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists and hence are fully accredited ACC treatment providers for acupuncture.