I was recently reminded of a patient I treated close to 14 yrs ago. His wife was a family practice patient and I had treated her for a serious problem with acupuncture so she sent her husband to me. He had fallen 20 feet at work 4-5 yrs prior and had had 4 surgeries to his low back. When he came to me he wasn’t able to feel anything on his left leg but he did have the sensation his leg was a wooden peg and it hurt severely all the time. He reported that his doctors said there wasn’t anything else to try with the leg and back except to give him pain medication that he tried and it didn’t help the pain very much.
At the time I didn’t know if acupuncture would help or not. I imagined all sorts of scar tissue and possible damage from repeated surgeries. However I thought it was worth a try as I wouldn’t make him worse and had the possibility of improving his pain somewhat at least. He wanted to try also so we started on a series of treatments. After the 3rd treatment he reported he could feel the vent blowing air on his left foot and when he walked barefoot he felt something under his foot and he looked and saw that it was the carpet. He hadn’t felt anything for yrs. He was so happy! His back pain improved dramatically too.
One day he came in and told me that normally he urinated every 30 minutes during the day and 7 or more times during the night. Now he was only urinating every 3 hrs and once during the night. He also said his mood improved and overall energy improved. He started dancing and doing more activities. After a while I saw him infrequently and then lost track of him.
Truthfully I was surprised at the time with his dramatic recovery after so many invasive surgeries and the severity of his problems. It showed me the power of acupuncture and that it could work at times that I had doubts. It opened a whole sphere of possibilities in my belief and knowledge over the years.
You may wonder why it would improve his urination so much also. When I was a physical therapist I observed that many people who had back pain also developed other problems within a few months. Mostly I noticed women’s periods changed in character. They often developed irregular periods, or more painful periods or heavier bleeding. Sometimes the urination shifted to more urgency and frequency without any infection present. The physicians I asked at the time thought it was just coincidence but it happened too often in my observations for me to be satisfied with that answer.
While in medical school, it made sense that back injuries could cause a myriad of other symptoms and occasionally some manipulation or adjustments could affect some of the other symptoms in people. But it didn’t seem to be very often and no real explanation was given except the parasympathetic and sympathetic nerve plexus in the sacrum and lumbar area was affected and calming this down would help.
Chinese Medicine (CM) and acupuncture have a deeper explanation of relationships that did help me understand why a low back trauma caused the other problems I saw long ago.
One of the “kidney” energy’s functions is to support the low back. It also helps the fluid control as we expect in Western medicine. It is also a player in the menstrual cycle. So when the back is injured the kidney energy gets depleted or blocked. Also anytime there is long standing illness the kidney energy is depleted. So someone with a long time back pain will automatically probably have low kidney energy in my expectations. Some traditional signs of low kidney energy in CM are light colored urine and increased frequency of urination, low back pain, knee pain or heel pain, decreased sperm count.
There are points on the back that correspond to the kidney and these help give the kidney more energy or balance the qi. As you might imagine the “bladder” energy in CM is also a close cousin to the “kidney” energy. The bladder channel runs along each side of the spine and is treated often in back pain. So when treating the back with the bladder channel we are also helping the “kidney” energy.
I have had many other patients over the years who have had their urinary frequency and urgency helped while treating their back pain. In some of the cases the urinary symptoms had been there years prior to the back injury or pain but none-the-less they improved also due to the relationship of the channels and the kidney and bladder energy. The same goes for the menstrual cycle but those relationships are much more complex and too involved to explain right now. However the relationships do explain what I saw as a young physical therapist 30 yrs ago.
K Bynum, DO