Back Pain & What Can You Do About It?

Feb 06, 2023
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Back Pain & What Can You Do About It?

A lot of patients come into our clinic with some sort of back pain as their primary complaint. For some, they would come in with completely different concerns such as knee pain or headache but upon further examination, their main complaint was caused by or related to back pain. Since the back covers a large area, many structures may be pointed to have caused the pain. Keep in mind that the body is a mechanical chain. A dysfunction in one area can cause compensation of the other and can also cause pain in the compensating structure after a while. Are you also experiencing back pain? Do you know what's causing your back pain? To have an easier understanding, we can discuss back pain by location. Knowing the pain location can provide further information on what structures it can also affect and how it can be addressed. The back can be divided into three main parts: the upper back, mid-back, and lower back.

Upper back pain

The Upper back covers the area from the end of the neck until the end of the scapula. Upper back pain is less common than low back pain. Tightness of the muscles and fascia around the upper back can also cause pain in the arms, forearms, and hands. The structures of the upper back can also cause headaches. 

Common causes of upper back pain are poor posture such as the forward head which is usually from spending a long time in front of a computer screen. You may also get it from sleeping with a pillow that does not correctly support the curve of your cervical spine. Neck injuries such as those due to abrupt movements can also cause upper back and neck pain.

Middle back

The middle back is the least common to cause or have pain among the three parts. It covers the lower thoracic vertebrae, from the scapula's lowest point to the lumbar spine. This area also covers the ribs attached to the said thoracic vertebrae. The pain from the structures of the midback is also usually localized in this area although it can sometimes cause difficulty in breathing which may result in chest pain.

One common cause of mid-back pain is poor posture due to slouching. There are also a number of people with scoliosis that report mid-back pain due to the rotation of the spine that causes malalignment. Injuries and degeneration can also cause pain around this area.

Low back pain

Low back pain is the most common among the three. It starts at the lowest part of your rib cage until just the upper part of your buttocks. Structures in this area can cause radiating or referred pain down to the feet. 

There are a number of things that can cause low back pain. It can again be caused by poor posture which can cause muscle spasms and tightness around the pelvic area. For the older generation, back pain can be caused by degenerative problems like disc degeneration and osteoporosis which can also impinge nerves that can radiate the pain distally. If you are pregnant, chances are your low back is also hurting because of the added weight that also causes a shift in your center of gravity.

Pain is perceived differently by different people. It is a noxious experience that most of us want to avoid. Each of us also has a different threshold for different kinds of pain which is why not one pain is the same as the other. This could also mean that pain can be addressed in multiple ways.

Heat and ice

Ice or a cold compress is often recommended for those with acute conditions while heat is given to those with chronic concerns. However, it will also highly depend on what you can tolerate and what gives you better relief.

For a more consistent heat transfer to your aching body, NYC Acupuncture + Wellness have infrared lamps to focus on the specific area of pain. If a wider area needs heat, BioMat is the solution. BioMat does not only give off heat to provide temporary relief to your back ache, but it also promotes anion within the body which brings relaxation to relieve stress and boost your energy. Did you know that stress can also manifest as pain in the body? That is why the emotional and mental condition is also considered when treating those with pain.


If you are suffering from back pain due to muscle tension and tight fascia, cupping therapy may be added to your treatment plan. Cupping has many benefits. In relation to the topic of back pain, cupping can relax the muscles and decrease its activity which is often caused by repeated overfiring of its fibers. The suction and heat provided by cupping promote cell and tissue repair by vasodilation to increase blood flow in the area where it is applied. Consistent sessions of cupping can the muscle and fascia tightness which leads to a decrease in pain.


With very thin needles piercing through the skin, acupuncture is also utilized to address back pain. In the TCM perspective, acupuncture needles are placed on specific acupoints along the meridians to achieve balance within the body specifically in the organs that are causing the backache. In the words of Western medicine, acupuncture has proven its positive effects by signaling the body to produce natural anti-inflammatory hormones like steroids and hormones that manage pain like endorphins. Acupuncture can also be done with electric currents wherein small currents travel between a pair of needles. Electroacupuncture is often indicated for those with pain because the effect of relief is said to last longer than normal acupuncture therapy. 

Herbal medicine

Depending on the diagnosis and root cause, herbal medicines for backache are often applied topically. Anti-inflammatory and analgesics are the key components of herbal medications for back pain. Examples of these are san qi, curcuma (turmeric), and dong quai. If your backache is caused by internal reasons such as hormonal changes, herbal pills can be prescribed. 

Relaxation techniques

Like other ailments, mental and emotional stress can also manifest in our physical body. Stress-induced back pains often manifest in the upper back together with the tightness of the muscles such as rhomboids, infraspinatus, and trapezius. Stress caused by overworking can also be apparent with posture. Forward-head posture is often observed in those who work long hours in front of the computer. Take necessary rests to avoid getting overworked. If you are in the middle of a workday, you can do diaphragmatic breathing. You may also add movements while doing deep breathing. This is when you do mindful breathing wherein your abdomen is the one that inflates and deflates rather than your chest. It may be difficult at first for some, but it will be more effortless when done regularly. You may also opt to meditate when you have time such as yoga to clear your mind. In TCM, we have Qi Gong. It is a combination of breathing and meditating while you do active and coordinated body movements

Stretching and exercise

There are mainly two types of stretching. Dynamic stretching is highly recommended to those who are about to engage in physical activity. This can also be considered a warm-up because you are conditioning the regions of the body to move about the action you are planning. Some examples of dynamic stretching are leg and arm pendulums, spinal rotations, and lunges. On the other hand, static stretching is holding a muscle or a group of muscles in its lengthened position for some time. Static stretching examples are standing forward bend and supine spinal twist. Stretching decreases the chance of straining your muscles during an activity.

Exercise should be added to your daily routine to avoid chronic back pain. Exercise strengthens not only your muscles but also your bones and joints. Be sure that you are doing your exercises with the correct form to avoid further injury a great example of this is when lifting heavy loads. Lift with your hip and knees bent and slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees.

NYC Acupuncture + Wellness provides traditional Chinese medicine approach to help you recover. We always strive to improve your quality of life. Book an appointment with us to learn more about how we can help you with your back pain.