Relieving Back and Hip Pain

The nature of and medical thinking behind acupuncture’s approach to back pain is easier to see in the context of a patient case. Desmond, 43, came to Dr. Tierra complaining of lower back pain with secondary symptoms such as feeling cold easily and infections of Candida albicans and other fungi, notable in his toenails. Desmond had previously received acupuncture and Rolfing (deep tissue massage and manipulation) treatments but felt no better from them.

Dr. Tierra’s diagnosis was that Desmond’s back pain was produced by “coldness and deficiency of Kidney Yang.” He explains: “In Chinese medicine the kidneys represent the entire endocrine system, and Kidney Yang-yang is the more active, fiery expression of qi, yin the more passive, watery-is associated with a generally slow metabolism, poor blood circulation, and possibly diminished libido. Desmond’s was a common example of lower back pain resulting from a metabolic imbalance of hormones caused by stress and lifestyle imbalance.”

With this in mind, Dr. Tierra put together a treatment program comprising acupuncture, magnets, and herbs, noting that “the powerful role herbal remedies can exert in treating lower back pain” is often overlooked in the rush to administer mechanical “fixes” to back pain patients.

First, he gave Desmond acupuncture on his back and applied north-facing, 9,000 gauss-strength Acuband magnets to certain points on his back and behind his knees. “Pain is caused by stagnated or congested qi and magnets stimulate qi to move. So when you place a north-facing magnet, which disperses qi and moves it away from a site, you’re likely to have a pain reduction,” Dr. Tierra explains. South-facing magnets will tonify qi, bringing it into an area, he adds.

Next, Dr. Tierra started Desmond on a Chinese herbal formula called Rehmannia Eight (containing rehmannia, cornus berries, mountain peony, poria, Dioscorea root, cinnamon bark, and aconite) to tonify or rebalance the kidney energy. Dr. Tierra also gave Desmond a formula called Angelica Du Huo and Loranthus Combination (containing many herbs, including Angelica pubescens and Loranthus mistletoe). This formula is specific for lower back and joint pains and is “very effective for all forms of arthritic conditions, especially of the lower extremities,” says Dr. Tierra.

At Desmond’s second weekly visit, he reported feeling considerable pain relief in his back. At his third visit, Dr. Tierra gave him two remedies to address his fungal and Candida infections: an herbal tea mix of pau d’arco, sarsaparilla, sassafras, stillingia, yerba mansa, echinacea, burdock, prickly ash, lobelia, and ginger; and Flora Balance, a homeopathic remedy. It was not long before Desmond reported that his toenails were growing in normally again, free of all signs of fungus.

One month after beginning treatment, at Desmond’s fourth visit, he reported his back pain “continued to lessen” and that the magnets, which he applied himself when the pain flared, reliably and immediately reduced the pain, by at least 60%. On subsequent visits, Desmond said that his back pain was mostly corrected with only occasional minor sensitivity.

Dr. Tierra’s second case shows how metabolic imbalances, produced by stress, overwork, and inappropriate diet, can combine with a previous physical injury (such as a car accident) to create chronic back pain and early-stage arthritis. Eleanor, 34, came to Dr. Tierra, bearing a medical diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, with stiffness, pain, and swelling in all her joints-all were warm to the touch-especially her neck, shoulders, back, and hips.

Eleanor said her symptoms began soon after she sustained injuries in a car accident three years earlier. While she maintained healthful practices (meditation and yoga), ate a reasonably wholesome diet (no refined carbohydrates, alcohol, or coffee), and had tried other forms of alternative treatment (chiropractic, colon therapy, and acupuncture), Eleanor’s pain and discomfort had progressed to the point she was taking Motrin (a conventional drug to relieve inflammation) on a regular basis.

“All of her symptoms were aggravated by overexertion, stress, and exposure to cold,” says Dr. Tierra. “She had very low energy and her pale skin suggested anemia.” In Dr. Tierra’s view, Eleanor’s condition was due “to an unbalanced diet with too much cold, raw food which caused internal stress, and by emotional stress caused by overwork. These factors compromised her immune system, resulting in her presenting condition.”

In Dr. Tierra’s view, the standard conventional medical protocol of prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs and symptomatic analgesics would “do absolutely nothing for the underlying immune deficiency.” In fact, Dr. Tierra adds, “they would further injure the immune system, making the patient potentially dependent for the rest of her life on such questionable drugs with known harmful side effects.”

Only through a “holistic approach combining completely safe but effective herbs, magnets, and acupuncture together with a proper diet and lifestyle adjustment can such a condition be truly healed,” says Dr. Tierra, who is well qualified to make such statements. He is the founder of the American Herbalists Guild, the author of four books, including Planetary Herbology (Lotus Light Press, 1988), and the formulator of Planetary Formulas herbal products.

In addition to acupuncture and magnet treatments, Dr. Tierra put Eleanor on several Chinese herbal formulas. First, he gave her Angelica Du Huo and Loranthus Combination to enhance the circulation of qi and blood and to relieve pain.

Next, Dr. Tierra gave her ma huang (Ephedra sinensis) to “warm and stimulate circulation of qi and blood” and eliminate any blockages in that system. He also started her on Chinese ginseng (to tonify, or balance the qi) and prepared aconite (an herb specifically indicated for “chronic cold-type arthritic conditions;” “prepared” means its toxic alkaloids have been neutralized). At her second visit, Eleanor reported she was “doing much better” and had “significantly less pain.” But she did complain of swollen ankles, gas, and bloating, for which Dr. Tierra provided more acupuncture and herbs, bringing her relief.

On the third visit, using a procedure called moxibustion, Dr. Tierra placed moxa cones on six treatment points on her back. Moxa is a little mound of mugwort herb which, when lit like a candle (the “bustion” part) and allowed to burn above, but not on, the skin, imparts warmth and healing herbal fragrances to the acupoints on the skin. Moxibustion also helps tonify the immune system, adds Dr. Tierra. After this, Eleanor reported that she was almost pain free.

However, job-related stress (an international business trip) brought a relapse of all her symptoms, demonstrating how powerful an effect stress can have on the body. After Dr. Tierra reinstituted the elements of his program (including the magnets, which Eleanor had stopped wearing), “she felt better immediately.”

Eleanor had a total of 11 treatments; by the end of this period, she was able to handle the stress of business-related travel and to have only minimal and transient setbacks when under stress, says Dr. Tierra.

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