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Treating Degenerative Disc Disease with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

Degenerative disc disease occurs when the intervertebral discs located in the spine become damaged. The purpose of these discs is to provide cushioning between the spinal vertebrae. As we grow older however, it is natural that the gel-like protective barrier within the discs starts to erode and dry up. When this happens, pain and other symptoms may manifest. On the positive side, many who technically have a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease do not exhibit symptoms.

An early sign of degenerative disc disease is pain that starts in the low back and radiates to the buttocks or upper thighs. Pain, tingling sensations and numbness may occur in the back, legs and even the feet. Degenerative disc disease is considered a normal part of the aging process but there are factors which make younger people more susceptible. Those with a higher risk factor include smokers, obese people and people who engage in frequent, demanding physical activity.

Fortunately, acupuncture and Oriental medicine can safely treat this condition. In many cases, degenerative disc disease is regarded as a kidney disharmony. The kidneys have dominion over the bones and have the job of manufacturing marrow. Marrow is a precious substance which is not only found deep within the bones, but is also what fills the brain and spinal cord. It is necessary for strong bones and provides the foundation for the immune system.

The Huang di Nei Jing, arguably one of the most important and oldest books about Oriental medicine, makes two revealing statements about the kidneys and their functions. The first axiom is that the kidneys store the Qi of the bones and the marrow. Qi is a fundamental energy present in all living creatures and necessary for healing. The second axiom is that the kidney is the master of physical strength, and it produces exquisite actions and movements.

The vital role of the kidneys to provide strength and nourishment for the skeletal system cannot be overstated. Acupuncture points which support kidney functions may very likely be part of a treatment plan to assist those with pain and other symptoms of degenerative disc disease. Some options include use of two acupuncture points from a category known as the Influential Points.

They are called Influential Points because each one of them is a 'master' at treating a specific component of the body. The influential point of bones is located on the urinary bladder channel and the one for marrow is located on the gall bladder channel. A channel is the pathway which carries vital energy, or Qi, throughout the body. Adding these two acupuncture points into the treatment plan can help nurture the damaged tissue within the spinal cord and bring about a reduction or elimination of pain.

Additionally, a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine may search for sensitive or sore spots near the site of pain. Applying acupuncture to these areas will help to provide relief from unpleasant sensations such as tingling or numbness. The needles will help encourage blood and Qi to flood the area and bring with it the components necessary to heal, regain flexibility in the spine, and decrease pain.

If you believe you are showing signs of degenerative disc disease, contact a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Even faint traces of tingling in the area of the back, legs and feet may be an early warning sign of this condition.

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.

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