Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Pain caused by herniated discs is a common reason people seek out care from complementary medicine providers like acupuncturists. Acupuncture can alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by herniated discs, without the use of drugs or surgery. It’s best when used concurrently with exercises such as physical therapy or pilates in order to strengthen the stabilizing core muscles to prevent future problems.
What is herniated disc pain?
When pain is caused by a herniated disc, it’s usually felt in the low back or neck AND down the legs or arms. The disc, which should be sandwiched between the vertebrae, is now pushing out to one side. This is like when you push the graham crackers of a smores together and the marshmallow gets squeezed out passed the edges. The nerves that go to the arms and legs originate in the spine, and when there is any pressure or obstruction to the nerve’s flow, sensations can be felt along the nerve’s pathway (called radiculopathy).
Acupuncture helps relieve pain felt around the site of the herniated disc, as well as the symptoms along the nerve pathway.
How does acupuncture relieve pain from herniated discs?
Acupuncture helps herniated disc pain a few ways.
1. Hua Tuo Jia Ji Points. These acupuncture points are located along the spine, between the transverse processes of the vertebrae. These are the little “arms” that stick out, and there are little muscles that connect the little arms to eachother. By doing acupuncture on these little muscles, they relax and lengthen, and more space is given to the compressed disc.
2. Increased circulation. Discs have trouble healing because they are made of cartilage, which doesn’t have many blood vessels. Acupuncture works by increasing circulation and therefore oxygen and nutrients, allowing the body to heal itself.
3. Relaxed muscles. Besides the Hua Tuo Jia Ji points, other points are chosen to relax the surrounding musculature and take pressure off the nerves.
4. Treating the root. Unlike dry needling, which only seeks to release muscles at the area of pain, acupuncture seeks to restore balance to the whole body. Does the pain act up during times of stress? Is is worst with fatigue and exhaustion? Finding the causative factor and addressing it will not only help relieve the pain, it helps prevent it from reoccurring. It also promotes better sleep, balanced energy levels, and over feelings of well being.