Disc Herniation and Acupuncture: Notes from a Senior Acupuncturist

You’ve been given a diagnosis of disk herniation.  Here is a brief explanation, video and treatment options to assist your recovery.

Herniated, ruptured, prolapsed intervertebral disk; disk syndrome. Etiology: Spinal vertebrae are separated by cartilaginous disks that consist of an outer annulus fibrosus and an inner nucleus pulposus.  Degenerative changes (with or without trauma) result in protrusion or rupture of the nucleus through the annulus fibrosus in the lumbosacral (low back) or cervical (neck) area…In the lumber area, >80% of disk ruptures affect L-5 or S-1 nerve roots. In the cervical area, C – 7 and C – 6 are the most common areas affected. Merck Manual Pages 1515 – 1516

Here is a great video to help you understand your diagnosis of disk herniation a bit more. Click Here!

Acupuncture may be a good first step in the relief and recovery from disk herniation.  It is important in all painful conditions to do a complete intake to determine the underlying causes of the condition.  Back pain may be the result of different contributing factors including injury, poor diet, stress, chronic anger, frustration or worry, kidney, or bladder infections.

In a chronic condition where a person has had back pain for longer than one year, the acupuncturist would use needles locally where the area of pain exists.  In acute cases, it is better to use acupuncture distally, or away from the area of pain.

The secondary method uses a system of relationships to treat the affected area(s).  According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the area ruled by the back is the Bladder channel.  This channel starts on the inside of the eye and travels down the back forming two pathways on either side of the spine, ending at the outside of the foot.

In the treatment of disk herniation, the needles chosen may be on the affected channel, and at the end points of the channel. A second treatment option is to use acupuncture points on a channel that has a relationship with the affected channel.  TCM explains that all the organs have a paired organ, called Yin/Yang organs.  With this understanding, it is possible to use points on the Kidney channel which is the paired organ of the Bladder to affect changes in the Bladder channel.

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