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Back Up Your Back: How Chinese Medicine Supports Back Function

Just like death and taxes, lower back pain is a certainty of life. At least for the 30 million or so Americans who experience it at any given time.1 

In comparison to a global pandemic scourge like influenza, tweaking your lower back or having chronic discomfort in that area might not seem like a big deal. But worldwide, back pain is in fact the most common cause of disability; it costs the U.S. economy alone over $100 billion each year.2,3 

Traditional Chinese Medicine And Low Back Discomfort

Certainly, centuries ago, back pain wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is in modern society, right? After all, isn’t leading a sedentary lifestyle one primary cause of low back pain? If you don’t stretch and move enough, you’re likely to experience it. It’s easy to picture masses of ancient villagers, before beginning a day’s work of laboring in the fields, practicing the ancient moving meditation discipline of Tai Chi, keeping the joints (the vertebrae) supple, and thereby preventing low back discomfort.  

But the reality is that back pain in ancient China was fairly common. In fact, herbal remedies for low back discomfort date back several centuries. After all, even if every single peasant practiced Tai Chi on a daily basis, the disciple can’t completely undue bending over for hours at a time in the fields. (Of course, there are other underlying causes besides lack of flexibility and muscular overuse.) 

Root Causes of Low Back Aches In TCM

#1: Too Much Sex

While “too much sex” wasn’t the official diagnosis a Chinese medicine doctor or herbalist would give a patient, it is one cause of it—at least in men. That’s because excessive semen loss depletes the Kidney TCM organ of Yin energy. 

In TCM theory, the Kidney (which includes in TCM the Western physical organs, plus meridians and other viscera) functions as the body’s batteries.

In TCM theory, the Kidney (which includes in TCM the Western physical organs, plus meridians and other viscera) functions as the body’s batteries. Your Kidneys are the source of your Yin and Yang energies. In addition, Kidney organ also serves as the body’s energy piggy bank, storing Jing, which you can think of as your life essence and the source of bodily fluids. Excessive release of semen causes Jing deficiency. 

(How much sex is too much is the subject for another post.) 

But what does ejaculation have to do with low back aches? The Kidney meridian system (think: superhighway of energy conductors) travels through the spine. Also, think about where the Western organ kidneys are located: in the upper abdominal area against the back muscles on both the left and right side of the body. There’s a good reason why when boxers are locked up, they try to weaken their opponent by taking pot shots at the kidneys. 

Actually, low back aches can be caused by either Yin or Yang deficiency. How do you know which deficiency pattern you have? With the former, excess ejaculation as well as premature ejaculation are signs; the latter is usually accompanied by a lack of libido. 

Herbal Medicine for Deficiency Patterns

For those with Kidney Yin deficiency, low back discomfort may not be the only problem. The pattern also presents with sweating and an overheated body. This is when Kidney Yin deficiency applies to females, in the form of hot flashes. Other symptoms of the pattern include a pale complexion, fatigue, lightheadedness, decreased vision, or occasional ringing in the ears. 

YinVive

The most well-regarded formula for Kidney Yin deficiency is Lui Wei Di Huang, known as YinVive in ActiveHerb’s Guang Ci Tang brand of Chinese Medicine.

“I bought this for my mom 3 months ago and she is very happy with it. It helped her eliminate her night sweats and helped with her lower back.”

As mentioned, lower back discomfort can also be caused by Yang deficiency. Yang is the warming counterbalance to Yin’s cooling energy. So if your Kidneys are lacking Yang, you’ll likely feel cold in the extremities, even when the weather isn’t very cold. In addition, not having enough Yang may result in sore knees, excess need to urinate and frequent movement of the hands and feet. 

If you’re cold much of the time or experiencing poor sexual performance, YanVive may help. YanVive can actually be used to treat much of the same symptoms as YinVive. (For best results, have your patterns diagnosed by an acupuncturist or TCM doctor.)

#2: Back Aches Caused By Blood Stasis 

Kidney deficiency may seem like an esoteric concept for those unfamiliar with TCM concepts. The next pattern through the lens of TCM is much easier to comprehend. Blood stasis occurs because of injury. The blood pools in the area that’s injured, causing stagnation and inflammation. 

This pattern can not only be caused by a recent injury but also by a history of back strain. The level of discomfort can vary, from mildly annoying to intense stabbing pain in a fixed area. 

If you can relate, StasisClear may help. This ancient formula quickly promotes blood and Qi circulation and removes Blood stasis in the meridians. 

#3: Low Back Aches Because Of Cold-Damp Invasions

In TCM theory, there are 6 external influences that can cause illness or aches. These are known as the 6 Evils. If you’re somebody who has to live through the long cold, damp winters of the Pacific Northwest, it’s easy to see why Cold and Dampness are two of the six evils. 

Wind is another Evil that can cause low back discomfort. These external influences, according to TCM theory, invade the back and trunk, causing Qi and Blood stagnation. (If you’re mom told you to bundle up before you left the house when you were a kid, she was unknowingly giving you practical TCM advice!)

Although TCM principles may often seem complex, Qi and Blood stagnation caused by bad weather is an easy root cause to grasp. And if your discomfort worsens in damp, cold or windy weather (or combinations thereof), JointsJoy may help. This herbal formula for low back discomfort may also increase your mobility.  

More Natural Remedies For Your Lower Back

ActiveHerb also carries Sciaticlear to support sciatic nerve function. If you’re looking for a joint-support formula, ArthritEZ may be more appropriate. You can learn more about ActiveHerb’s back support formulas here

Related Reading From The ActiveHerb Blog:

Sexual Wellness In Chinese Medicine: It’s All In Your Kidneys

What is Jing?

Got Cold Feet? 

References:

1: The global burden of low back pain

2: Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People without Back Pain

3: Lumbar disc disorders and low-back pain: socioeconomic factors and consequences.