Winter is related to the water element, which also corresponds to the low back and knees. That’s why back pain can get worse in winter. Both my dad and sister suffer from debilitating back pain, so I’ve seen first hand what it can do to your life. Follow these tips and don’t let it get the best of you.
1. Stay warm
According to Chinese medicine, stagnation causes pain. Cold creates stagnation and muscle tension, making the pain worse. This is why it’s so important to keep your back warm at all times. Make sure your shirts are long enough to cover the low back, and that you’re wearing a long coat when it gets cold outside. And since the meridian that goes up to the back starts on the bottom of your feet, it’s equally important to keep your feet and ankles warm. Lean towards thick wool socks and boots as soon as the weather cools, and wear socks or slippers in the house.
To temporarily relieve pain, rub a heating ointment like Tiger Balm onto the area, cover with a damp towel and a heating pad. This will drive the heat deep in to the body.
There’s no one-size-fits-all diet, even for back pain. What you should eat depends on the type of back pain you’re having, and what you other symptoms are. If you have sharp, knife like or throbbing pain, you have what we call “Blood Stagnation”. If it’s a dull, nagging pain you’ve got either a “Kidney Yin” or “Kidney Yang” Deficiency.
For blood stagnation, add spices that move blood, such as turmeric, ginger, chives/scallions/leeks/garlic, basil and rosemary to your food. Adzuki beans and sweet rice, both Asian food staples, are beneficial as well.
If you have red cheeks, your hands and feet tend to sweat, or you get hot flashes, night sweats, vertigo or tinnitus along with your backache, follow the “Kidney Yin Deficiency” diet. This includes cooling grains like millet and barley, all beans, especially kidney beans, and cooling fruits like blueberries, blackberries and melons. Also include sea vegetables such as nori, dulse and arame. Pork, eggs and cheese can all be beneficial in small amounts as well. In this case, avoid coffee, alcohol, tobacco and any hot spices.
A “Kidney Yang Deficiency” would give you that same dull backache, but with cold signs like loose stools, tiredness, and running cold all the time, or maybe just your hands and feet are cold. The diet to follow in this case includes lots of warming spices like cloves, fennel, anise, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon and everything from the onion family. Other foods to include are quinoa, chicken, lamb, trout, salmon, walnuts and black beans. Do your best to avoid raw foods and excess salt.
3. Do Hula Hips
This is the nickname of a qi gong exercise that opens up the low back and gets qi and blood flow through the area. It actually consists of 2 movements. For the first one, stand with your legs hip distance apart, with knees slightly bent. Place your hands over the small of your back and make large circles with your hips. Go in both directions. Don’t push yourself, and only go as far as is comfortable and doesn’t cause tension in your back. The 2nd exercise is similar. With hands holding your hip crease, make small circles with just the hips in both directions.
Another great exercise is called “Ring The Temple Bell”. In the same stance, turn the upper half of your body to the left, then to the right. Let your arms hang heavy, and turn your body hard enough to make them swing so that they run into your low back. Keep going, and you will feel the momentum created by your arms swinging. Stay as loose and relaxed as possible, and keep going for at least a minute, or up to 5 minutes.
Acupuncture is extremely effective at clearing away the stagnation that causes back pain. It taps directly into the nervous system to support your body’s own healing process. Your acupuncturist may also use tui-na, a Chinese medical massage, or cupping, which suctions glass cups onto the back to stimulate blood flow and pull up toxins. Treatments are very individualized, and patients begin seeing significant results after just a few sessions.
Bonus: acupressure point: Bl40
Have any of these methods helped your back pain? Do you have anything to add? Remember, if you’re in the Greenville area, you can always contact me for an acupuncture treatment. I’d be happy to help you in any way that I can.