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Healing a Ruptured or Herniated Disc with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

The terms herniated, slipped or ruptured disc all refer to a problem affecting the intervertebral spinal discs. When a disc ruptures, it means that the thick, gelatinous substance from within seeps through the tough outer wall into the spinal canal. Normally, the gel-like material is contained inside the discs to protect each vertebra from physical impacts. Discs can be found between every vertebra in the spine.

One of the greatest dangers is the increased chances of a spinal compression. This means the delicate nerves found up and the down the spine may be obstructed and pressed upon when a disc ruptures. If this does occur, many symptoms may result.

If the herniation is in the neck or cervical portion of the spine, then pain, numbness, weakness or tingling may be felt in the arms and shoulders. A hernia lower on the spine can cause symptoms such as burning, tingling or other unpleasant sensations in the buttocks, legs and possibly the feet.

Factors which may increase the risk of sustaining a herniated disc include:

  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Engaging in intense, rigorous physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Being male
  • Being over 40 years old

Not everyone with a slipped disc will experience spinal compression and the problems associated with it. Some people with this condition exhibit no symptoms at all.

It is normal for intervertebral discs to lose some of their protective gel because they tend to lose moisture with age. For this reason, acupuncture and Oriental medicine may diagnose a ruptured disc as a problem with kidney yin. Kidney yin is a precious substance which works with its partner, kidney yang, to power up the entire body.

The kidneys provide a fundamental energy which supports every organ and bodily process--acting much like a powerful battery. Yin is cooling, nurturing and comprises the fluids of the body. Yang, on the hand, is warm, active and disperses energy.

For patients who do require medical treatment, acupuncture and Oriental medicine can offer many benefits to assist with the healing process. Acupuncture points may be selected which help restore kidney yin. The yuan source point of the kidney channel has a direct connection to the kidney organ. A channel is the route that energy, also known as Qi, traverses throughout the body.

In this case, when the yuan source point is activated by an acupuncture needle, it can help resolve kidney yin deficiency. Since the fluid in the discs is considered a yin substance according to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, increasing kidney yin therefore can help rehabilitate symptoms of a slipped disc. It may also be necessary to apply acupuncture near the ruptured disc.

A practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine may choose to needle near, but not directly into, the troubled area. There is a saying which goes 'when the child is injured, do not punish it.' It is important to not aggravate the injured part of the body. A practitioner will likely palpate the back, or neck, in order to determine the most sensitive spots.

While administering acupuncture and Oriental medicine can reduce symptoms of a herniated disc, it cannot push the disc back into place. The good news, however, is that it can help restore range of motion and reduce pain, or other unwanted sensations.

Whether you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc or are just beginning to have symptoms crop up, contact a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to assist in your healing.

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.