Your upper back is considered by most to be your thoracic spine, which runs from your neckline (where it attaches to your cervical spine) to the lower portion of your mid-back (where it attaches to your lumbar spine). Since your thoracic spine provides you with a lot of stability and protection (i.e. protecting your heart and lungs), it has a special place on your back. But despite its strength, you can still feel pain in your upper back, often due to one or more of the following reasons:
- muscle strain
- poor posture
- injury or trauma
- joint dysfunction
- pressure from spinal nerves
- myofascial pain
Please note: if you experience upper back pain along with any of the following symptoms, you should consider the pain a serious issue and should seek a doctor's advice immediately:
- weakness in your arms or legs
- numbness or tingling in your torso or arms
- loss of bladder or bowel control
More often than not, your doctor will not be able to find much if anything wrong, although it never hurts to have some tests done just in case. When nothing can be found as a source of your pain, more than likely it's time to seek the help of natural medicine, such as acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncture (a modality of TCM) doesn't need a conventional medical diagnosis to help ease your pain – you simply describe where the pain is coming from, and the practitioner will ask you some other questions and feel your pulse. Once they've achieved a TCM diagnosis in this manner, they will more than likely choose some acupuncture points in your upper back where you're feeling pain, and possibly also in other areas of your body to help reinforce the treatment so that you remain pain-free for longer. Some of these other points include ones on the top of your head, your wrist or hand, and your lower legs.
You may now be wondering how these other points on your body are chosen. Essentially, TCM diagnosis of upper back pain tends to focus on whether your underlying energy pattern is one of excess or deficiency. Since TCM is a natural medicine and believes that everything which exists in the universe also exists within us, excess patterns can include blockage created from Cold, from Dampness, or from Qi (energy) and Blood stagnation (please note that some words are capitalized here to differentiate from the scientific definitions). Deficiency patterns generally evolve from Qi and/or Blood deficiencies. Thus the acupuncture points chosen on your body, aside from the points in your upper back, are chosen to help either remove excess from your body in general, or to generally boost your energy and/or nourish your Blood.
More than likely, after an acupuncture treatment your TCM practitioner will want to also perform some Tui Na (Chinese Massage), as an adjunct to the acupuncture. A massage of this type after an acupuncture session helps to further move blockage in the local area. You will probably note that Tui Na is a little different from a Swedish massage: its principle are based on the same as those which define acupuncture and the rest of TCM.
Next, if your pain is severe enough, your TCM practitioner may suggest some cupping, which involves the placement of (usually) glass or plastic cups in the local area. The cups will also help to remove blockage, and will help rid your body of toxins as well. Other modalities, such as herbs, may be suggested but are not always necessary. Each of us is unique, and so each treatment by a qualified R.TCMP (Registered TCM Practitioner) is unique to an individual's situation.
For more information, and to obtain your own free TCM diagnosis, contact us.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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