October 6, 2016

By  Steve Hoffman

It is estimated that 80% of Americans will experience an episode of low back pain and the condition is estimated to cost more than $100 billion annually with a large percentage of that due to decreased wages and productivity. That is a lot of people and a lot of money! One or two episodes of low back pain may not be something that most people worry about, but there are many who suffer chronic pain on a daily basis. Some of the problem is that western medicine can only offer pain reducing medications and surgery to help. The pain medications should only be used short term, have side effects and can be addictive. Surgery can help but not always and sometimes the condition is worse after surgery. Acupuncture can be a great alternative to those seeking immediate and lasting relief. 

So what are some of the best acupuncture points for low back pain? I’ll give you five and if you are suffering, massaging or otherwise stimulating these points can bring you immediate relief. 

Ling Gu

This point is an “extra” point (one that is not part of a meridian) but does lie along the Large Intestine channel. The point is located on the back of the hand, between the thumb and forefinger, down towards where the thumb and forefinger bones come together. This point can be tender and depending on the exact location of the pain, will often alleviate the pain by itself. The theory behind the mechanism for action for this point is that the long bone in the hand “images” the spine. This, plus the fact that the meridians interact with one another, helps explain why this point is so effective in relieving low back pain. 

Da Bai

Another “extra” point, located very close to Ling Gu, this point is located on the other end of the same long bone of the hand but at the other end of the bone, towards the finger joint. Again, this point can be tender and is commonly used in combination with Ling Gu to help alleviate low back pain. So, if Ling Gu “images” the low back, how does Da Bai also image the low back? Well, in acupuncture, the “image” can be flipped so that the top of the bone images the low back. It is kind of like covering all bases. By stimulating the image and the reverse image, you are getting more bang for your buck so to speak! 

Zhong Bai

Here again, we are looking at an extra point, this one located along the Triple Warmer meridian. Moving over between the ring finger and your pinky, you will find the point on the back of the hand between the two bones that connect to the fingers. The point is located towards the wrist as you slide your finger between the two bones. Here again, we are looking at an the image of the back as seen on a long bone. 

Lung 10 (LU10)

Named Yu Ji, or Fish Border, this point is located on the palm of the hand, below the thumb. The point is next to the bone, towards the palm, on the fleshy part below the thumb. Classically is located half way up the bone but for best results look for a tender area, maybe higher or lower and maybe more towards the palm. 

Small Intestine 4 (SI4)

Going back to the pinky side of the hand, this point, named Wan Gu or Wrist Bone, can be located by finding the side of the bone in the hand that attaches to the pinky. If you run your finger down the bone towards the wrist you will come to a bump or the base of the bone. If you go over that bump and in to a small depression, that is where the point is found. Once again, we are in an area that images where the base of the spine attaches to the pelvis. 

So what do all of these points have in common? That’s right, they are all located on the hand! So why aren’t we using points on the back to treat the back? Well, points on the back can be used to treat the back and, under some acupuncture systems, they are commonly used (often in combination with some of the points listed above). The reason these “distal” points are so effective according to Chinese medicine is that the energy of the body is said to be most accessible at the ends or beginnings of the meridians and these points are located at the fingers and toes. Additionally, in one of the styles of acupuncture that I practice, the “sick” meridian (the area that the pain or dysfunction is actually located) is not needled. This makes a certain kind of logical sense; you do not want to further exacerbate an area that is already damaged or “sick”. Additionally, it is what works best! 

If you are suffering with an acute case of low back pain, massaging these points (rather vigorously, after all imagine what a needle is doing!) can give you instant relief. Chronic back pain usually needs treatment however, and while it may take several visits over the first month or so, most people get to the point that they only need treatment a few times a year to keep things going in the right direction!

Princeton Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Our patients know just how effective treatments are for these and a host of other problems. Steven Hoffman, a New Jersey Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Oriental Medicine, will provide you with a thorough intake and evaluation and a clear, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that will insure that your goals are met or exceeded. Do you want to move past these or other problems? We will help you thrive not just survive!

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