Category Archives: back pain

How Acupuncture Treats Back Pain

Bladder Helps in Acupuncture Neck & Back Pain Treatment

Portland area acupuncture to treat back painIn Traditional Chinese Medicine, the bladder is one of the six yang organs, paired with one of the six yin organs. The yin organs store vital substances (such as Qi, blood, yin, and yang), whereas the yang organs are more active and have a function of constantly filling and emptying. The bladder is a perfect example of a yang organ. Its main physiological function is to remove water from the body in the form of urine. To do this, the bladder uses Qi (energy) and heat from its paired yin organ, the kidneys.

Obviously urination is an essential component to the functioning of our bodies, and as such, the bladder plays a vital role through its filling and emptying of urine.

However, the bladder system in TCM has far more influence in the body than just over fluid transformation and excretion. As mentioned above, each yang organ is paired with a yin organ, and the bladder is paired with the kidneys. The kidneys are one of the most important energy systems in TCM, they store some of our deepest levels of energy, being the root of all yin and yang in the body and hold our essence. The kidneys often exert an effect on the bladder system when there is a weakness, this means that sometimes problems with the kidney energy can be detected and treated sooner by treating the bladder or the bladder channel. An example is low back pain. The kidneys in TCM govern the low back and the knees. The bladder meridian runs down the length of the back in not one but two trajectories on either side of the spine. Most forms of low back pain can be treated with bladder points on the back, as well as bladder points on the backs of the legs.

In acupuncture, one of the most essential aspects of the bladder channel is treating the back. The bladder channel runs from the inner canthus of the eye, over the top of the head, down the neck and the back on either side of the spine, through the sacrum and down the back of the leg to the knee. Then the channel travels back up to the top of the back and begins its downward trajectory again, tracing another trail down the length of the back, more lateral than the first. It then continues down the back of the leg to the outside of the pinky toe. The bladder channels trajectory makes it a powerful channel for treating most kinds of neck, back, sacral, hamstring, calf and achilles pain. It is particularly helpful when there is a pain condition affecting more than one of these sites.

Every energy system in TCM exerts an effect on both the physical body and the mental/emotional self. The kidneys are associated with fear – this means excessive fear will weaken the kidneys, but irrational fear can also be a symptom of a kidney imbalance. As the bladder is linked to the kidneys, it can be used to support the kidneys in treating fear. When the bladder itself is out of balance, there may be negative emotions such as jealousy, suspicion and inability to let go of grudges.

To take care of the bladder, make sure you drink plenty of non-caffeinated, non-sugary beverages throughout the day to optimize its water transforming function. Eating a kidney-nourishing diet will also help the bladder energy. To keep energy flowing optimally through the bladder meridian, make sure to stretch! Create a daily stretching routine that includes stretches for the whole posterior portion of the body. You might think about including foam rolling, massage, myofascial release, cupping, gua sha or tuina. For more information on how acupuncture can help with your pain, contact us and make an appointment at our Portland area office.

The Bladder in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Using Traditional Medicine For Portland Wellness

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the bladder is one of the six yang organs, paired with one of the six yin organs. The yin organs store vital substances (such as Qi, blood, yin, and yang), whereas the yang organs are more active and have a function of constantly filling and emptying. The bladder is a perfect example of a yang organ. Its main physiological function is to remove water from the body in the form of urine. To do this, the bladder uses Qi (energy) and heat from its paired yin organ, the kidneys.

Obviously urination is an essential component to the functioning of our bodies, and as such, the bladder plays a vital role through its filling and emptying of urine. Continue reading

New Research Supports Massage as Supplemental Treatment for Low-Back Pain & Burn Scars

  • Massage showed fast therapeutic results in reducing chronic low back pain—even for patients that don’t use anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Burn rehabilitation massage therapy reduces pain, itching and scarring characteristics—such as scar thickness and elasticity—providing relief to burn victims.

Two new independent clinical studies demonstrate that massage therapy eases pain and improves recovery time for people suffering from lower back injuries and burns. The two studies support recent findings from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that found 43 percent of consumers reported their primary reason for receiving a massage in the previous year was for a medical/health care reason. And, physicians play a key role in discussing massage therapy with patients—48 percent of respondents indicated they were encouraged by their doctor to receive a massage.

“These findings emphasize what professional massage therapists know: massage is good medicine,” said Nancy Porambo, AMTA President. “Massage therapy provided by a professional massage therapist is being increasingly viewed by physicians and their patients as an important component of integrated care. Nearly 9 of 10 American consumers believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain. And, a growing body of clinical research continues to validate that.”

Massage Therapy Can Help Low-Back Pain

In a study published in the February 2014 edition of Scientific World Journal, researchers investigated whether chronic low-back pain therapy with massage therapy alone was as effective as combining it with non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. The study was conducted on 59 individuals divided into two groups, all of whom suffered from low-back pain and were diagnosed with degenerative changes of the spine, other intervertebral disc diseases or spine pain.

In both patient groups, the pain measured was significantly reduced and the level of disability showed significant improvement compared to the baseline. Researchers concluded massage had a positive effect on patients with chronic low-back pain and propose that the use of massage causes fast therapeutic results and that, in practice, it could help to reduce the use of anti-inflammatory drugs in the treatment of chronic low-back pain .

Whether or not you suffer from back pain massage therapy can be an effective tool for preventive medicine and overall health and well-being.  Call our office to book your appointment today!



Treating Low Back Pain with Acupuncture, part 1

One of the most common things bringing someone into our office is lower back pain, often times radiating down into the hips or legs. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in our country today 1! Americans spend billions of dollars addressing this issue, and it often affects work productivity. Though there are a myriad of causes for back pain, some more treatable than others, let’s take a look at how acupuncture can help the situation.

When I’m evaluating a patient with back pain, I’m curious about the following: How long has it been going on? Did it start suddenly, or gradually over a long period of time? Where does it hurt and when? What does the pain feel like, and are there any other neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, burning, muscle weakness? All this information gives me a clue as to what structures – muscles, bones/joints, nerves – may be involved. As I tell my patients, acupuncture can be most helpful in the case of muscle strain or sprain, say, back pain after a long work out. In the case of damage or injury to a joint or vertebral disc, such as in a herniated disc, this is a much more challenging clinical scenario.

But, let’s just say you are having low back pain that is not related to any spine or disc damage. Being an acupuncturist very much so practicing in the intersection between western anatomy and physiology and Chinese theory, one of my favorite strategies clinically is to look at the muscle groups most likely affected. I often get great success addressing the quadratus lumborum – a muscle that attaches to your lower rib, vertebrae and rim of the pelvis – and helps you bend to one side. If you have one-sided back pain and have a hard time moving to one side or twisting, chances are, this muscle is acting up in a big way. By finding tight places on the edge of this muscle and along the pelvis, I can help release spasm with just a few needles.

Drawing of QL in bright red

Another key structure is the piriformis muscle – deep under the gluteal muscles of the buttock, and often known for its role in putting pressure on the sciatic nerve causes pain down the leg. Most commonly, the sciatic nerve lies underneath the piriformis, but some anatomical variations show the nerve running on top, or even through the muscle. When the piriformis is tense or in spasm it can place a lot of pressure on the sciatic nerve. The acupuncture point Gallbladder 30(GB30) lies right at the middle point of this muscle, and even a single needle here can significantly reduce tension and pain.

Diagram of piriformis muscle, sciatic nerve in yellow

While back pain can be quite complex, I find that these structures are often involved, and can offer immediate relief when successfully treated. My college dance mentor always used to say “use the power of the pelvis!”, and I find that even in addressing lower back pain, addressing tension and imbalance down through the pelvis and hips can affect the low back directly above. And, both these muscle groups can be easily stretched at home for continued relief!

1 “Low Back Pain Fact Sheet.” Low Back Pain Face Sheet: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. National Institute of Health, July 2003. Web. June 24, 2014. <>

2 “Quadratus Lumborum Muscle.” Wikipedia: Quadratus Lumborum. Wikipedia, May 18, 2014. Web. June 24, 2014. <>

3 Golob, Kelly. “Can the Piriformis muscle cause Sciatica?” Olympia Sports Chiropractor, March 21, 2011. Web. June 24, 2014. <>

Stand Up For Yourself

Stand Up For Yourself

Surprise! This blog is about posture and what good posture can do for your health. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities and while at rest.

Posture is often an overlooked concern. Your posture has a direct affect on your breathing, organ function, nerves, discs, joints, spine, and muscle integrity. How your posture looks today is the result of years of activity. And, most of us spend hours every day sitting at a desk, where it’s easy to slouch and let your posture slip. To stay limber, try to get up for a couple minutes every half hour and stretch, walk, or stand.

Once it is apparent what is problematic, you can make minor corrective changes in your daily routine to gradually improve your carriage. When standing, keep some distance between your feet so that they align with your shoulders and your shoulders align with your ears. Imagine a string traveling up the spine through the neck, shoulders, and head that is pulled taught above the body – essentially causing the ears, hips, and shoulders to form one vertical line. Support your lower back when you are sitting. Sleeping on your back on a good mattress helps your posture too. Your spinal cord gets support from the bed when the shoulders line up perfectly with the body.

The more conscious you can become about your posture, the more opportunity there is to make adjustments. Being aware of your personal posture imbalances is necessary to attempt self-correction. Eventually, better posture will become second nature and aid in injury prevention.

See if you can develop healthy habits to continue to be pain-free. If you find you’re hurting for more than a day or two, think of acupuncture as a viable option. The sooner you begin to address your problem, the sooner you will see positive results and the improvements can happen more quickly.

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Cupping is a type of therapy used for centuries, dating back to ancient Greek, Egyptian and Chinese folk medicine. With the use of fire, or a pump in modern times, suction is created against the body. Traditionally the cups were made of animal horns, bamboo, or ceramic. Many families have even used drinking glasses as home remedies. In modern day clinics, thick glass or flexible silicone/rubber cups are used. The negative pressure against the skin causes the tissue to be pulled up into the glass, the effect being like an inverse massage.

In the clinic, I first put down a cream or oil to protect the skin from friction. Then, the cups are either left in one place, or slid along the body, mostly along the back. I commonly use cups to help relieve musculoskeletal pain, especially in the neck, shoulders and back. This can be helpful in the case of an injury, car accident, or arthritis related pain. Cupping can also be used to treat headaches or migraines.

So, how does it work? In Chinese medicine terms, cupping opens the pores to expel wind and cold. It also helps to move qi and blood and remove stagnation. But in common language, cupping is thought to loosen adhesions or tightness in muscle and connective tissue, and promotes the flow and circulation of blood and lymph. Some studies have also suggested that cupping helps to reduce signs of inflammation.

Cupping is generally very safe and even relaxing, though it often leaves temporary marks on the skin from suction. These can range in color from petechiae (red dots), red, to a blue/purple. Similar to a bruise, they resolve within 1-2 weeks. There may be some tenderness or itchiness in the area as it heals.

To see if cupping may help you, call Suzanne at the clinic number (503) 692-9680.