Backache is a pain, both literally and figuratively. Just over two years ago Barbara was housebound for five weeks due to pneumonia. As a result of this long duration of recuperation, mainly lying on her back in bed or on the sofa, Barbara got serious backache, which had stayed with her ever since. Before this illness and her subsequent back problems, Barbara had been very fit and liked to do regular boot camps to maintain her fitness and emotional wellbeing.
When I first met Barbara she was in pain - a constant ache across her lumbar area with a focal point on her right buttock at GB 30 (Huantiao). Barbara had become relatively used to this continuous backache from which she seldom had relief. Physiotherapy occasionally helped but more often aggravated her problem. Barbara was eager to get back training and doing boot camp's especially since she was beginning to put on some weight. Barbara also complained that she had regular sinus infections ever since her bout of pneumonia. She was feeling like her sinuses were very compacted and as a result had a heaviness and had constant frontal headaches. She was very aware that previously she used to be a lot happier than she had been during the last 18 months and this really bothered her.
Barbara had never had acupuncture before and was quite curious and enthusiastic. She was expecting to have needles put in her back and became even more curious when I explained that I wouldn't be going near her back, but instead I would be using a hologram of a turtle on her abdomen, to reflect all areas of her body. I explained to her that the umbilicus is where we are nurtured from and that this is the epicentre from which all embryogenesis occurs. I went onto elaborate – that for this and other reasons the abdominal area had huge resources in order to treat all kinds of illness and pain including her backache.
I explained to Barbara that abdominal acupuncture can be quite fast at achieving pain relief and so in order to get a real-time indication of how effective the treatment was I asked Barbara to put a reference point score on her bachache. She felt that it was at the level of 6/10, to which I responded bring that score of 6/10 up to 10 out of 10. I asked her to do the same for the discomfort she was feeling in her sinuses and head and emphasised the point that it is easier to calculate the difference in the reference score if you start from a score of 10 out of 10, which she duly acknowledged.
Looking at the abdomen revealed that the area around the lower Dantian had a concave nature especially around the point Ren 4 (Guanyuan). As I placed my hands on Barbara's abdomen, one on the upper and the other on the lower abdominal area, there was an obvious temperature difference with the lower area of the lower Dantian being colder than above the navel. The whole of the abdomen felt a little bit tense and there were some obvious and superficial, bubble like nodes around Ren 12 (Zhongwan). Below the umbilicus particularly around stomach 26 (Wailing). On the right-hand side there was quite a pronounced hard granular node. There were also small but obvious and deeper nodes in the area of Ren 4 (Guanyuan) and Kid 13 (Qixue).
I began the treatment using "Bringing Qi Home" Ren 12 (Zhongwan), Ren 10 (Xiawan), Ren 6 (Qihai) & Ren 4 (Guanyuan) with St 25 and St 26 bilaterally. I also included kidney 13 (Qixue). After these points had been inserted superficially, I then began to fix them to the correct depth, beginning with the point Ren 12 (Zhongwan) which was left a little bit more superficial than the other points which went to a depth of approximately 0.5 cun. St 26 (Wailing) on the right was left at a depth of 0.4 cun which is the level where I first encountered the granular like node. This ahshi point was quite difficult to break up and required a little bit of manipulation after the needle met the resistance. When it subsided I withdrew the needle to the above-mentioned depth where I first encountered the resistance. Ren 4 (Guanyuan) felt very flaccid and even with the gentle sliding technique on the handle of the needle it seemed to need to go deeper than 0.5 cun. I left it at 0.5 cun. Both Kidney 13 (Qixue) points encountered a small amount of resistance and were left at the depth of 0.5 cun after breaking up the small resistance.
Fig Barbara's first abdominal acupuncture treatment
Upon checking with Barbara as to how the pain was in the lumbar area she replied that it felt good and that the bachache reference score was now as a level of 4/10. When asked about the pain in the region of GB 30 (Huantiao) she felt that this had dropped to a level of 3/10. At this stage I felt I could move to address the sinus problems.I needled each of the ahshi points that I had located approximately 0.3 cun superior and lateral to Ren 12 (Zhongwan) and these points were left out of their of 0.2-0.3 cun (see fig 1). Barbara's posture had changed and her eyes looked heavy. Reading these signs I felt it was time to allow her to get the full benefit of the treatment, I put a a heat lamp above her lower abdomen and left her to rest.
When I returned 30 minutes later I noticed that the needles at Ren 4 (Guanyuan) and Kidney 13 (Qixue) had gone deeper and were now at a depth of almost 1 cun. I have encountered this before where needles become sucked in to a deeper level highlighting the deficient nature of the patient. As I was removing the needles I enquired as to how Barbara was feeling now. She responded by saying that her back felt good. The pain had reduced further and there was really only a memory of the pain in the lumbar area and some tightness in the region of GB 30 (Huantiao). Her sinuses felt clearer although she still had some residual discomforts there.
It was six weeks before I saw Barbara for the second treatment. She told me that she had virtually no back pain for the first three weeks and that she had returned to doing the boot camps that she loved so much. After doing boot camp training she sometimes felt like that was a weakness in her lower back and this caused concern. She had some fear that her back pain might come back but thankfully it never did with any intensity. Barbara still had some sinus problems but she felt that the condition had improved by up to 50%. Barbara also said that her mood had been much better ever since the first treatment.
I enquired with Barbara as to how she was feeling today. She said that she had a low level dull empty type lumbar pain. She often felt this way after doing a boot camp. Her sinus problem was not symptomatic but she then declared that she had often had ear problems ever since she was a child. She frequently had to have her ears syringed to remove a buildup of wax.
As is the case with any other treatment where there is pain or discomfort I asked Barbara to focus in on her pain as it was at that moment in time and when she had an idea of how the backache felt to reference score that discomfort or pain at 10 out of 10.
Fig 2 Barbara's second treatment
As I palpated the abdomen I noticed that the lower Dantian was still quite cold and had a concave flaccid nature. There were no obvious ahshi points.
On this occasion the treatment used was "Bringing Qi Home" Ren 12 (Zhongwan), Ren 10 (Xiawan), Ren 6 (Qihai) & Ren 4 (Guanyuan) with St 25 (Tianshu), St 26 (Wailing) and Kid 13 (Qixue).
This treatment would ensure that the postnatal Qi would nourish the prenatal Qi of the kidneys. "Bringing Qi Home" Ren 12 (Zhongwan), Ren 10 (Xiawan), Ren 6 (Qihai) & Ren 4 (Guanyuan) would also help to open up the whole of the spinal cord. St 25 (Tianshu) would help to clear the phlegm and damp that was causing this sinus and ear problems. St 25 (Tianshu) with St 26 (Wailing) would ensure that all of the major muscles in the mid and lower back would soften and relax. Kid 13 (Qixue) was used to help with the weakness in the lower back by reinforcing the action of Ren 4 (Guanyuan) and thereby nourishing Kidney essence thus helping to resolve the chronic ear problems. All the needles were put to a depth of 0.5 cun. A heat lamp was used over the lower Dantian. Barbara said she was feeling very comfortable relaxed and could feel the warmth in her lower back.
Upon completion of the treatment about 30 minutes later Barbara declared that her back felt stronger there was no empty feeling and she felt invigorated and happy once more.
The next time that I saw Barbara was four weeks later. She was in a good mood. She was still doing the boot camp and was happy that her sinus problem had never been better. Her back had not been painful but on occasion it felt weak and vulnerable like it might go at any moment. Her ears were not giving her any trouble but this was an ongoing intermittent problem.
The treatment used on this occasion was more minimal eight needles in total: Ren 12 (Zhongwan) and Ren 4 (Guanyuan), Kid 13 (Qixue), St 25 (Tianshu) and St26 (Wailing) bilaterally. St 25 (Tianshu) in order to clear excess phlegm damp which was affecting the sinuses & ears and this would also benefit the back pain which after two years was of a chronic nature. Using Ren 4 (Guanyuan) in combination with Kid 13 (Qixue) would help strenghten the Kidney essence and thus help to resolve the chronic ear problem while also benefiting the lower back.
Barbara left beaming from ear to ear. She felt strong and her back was more supple than when she first arrived. Her mood was great and she was completely “zen”! No more backache.
Barbara came to see me four weeks later and said that her back had been stronger than ever - only occasional moments of weakness. Her sinuses had been great and as yet there had been no ear problems. She said that her mood was good and that overall she felt more able to deal with difficult and stressful situations.
On this occasion I had run short of needles, having forgotten to bring a new stock to the drug clinic I work in. I had approximately 50 - 60 needles for nine clients!
The treatment was minimal. I used 6 points in order to treat the back, invigorate the kidneys and help resolve the longterm ear problems. What did I use?
Barbara’s mother came for acupuncture on Barbara’s recommendation. She has her own acupuncturist she see’s quite regularly, but after observing the transformation in her daughter she wanted to come and see me and started the session by giving me a heartfelt thank you for bringing her daughter back from the darkness. She said that her daughter was now showing signs of being her usual strong, fun loving self again and that she put it all down to the 3 sessions of acupuncture she had with me!
Barbara has made an incredible recovery since I first met her. She was in with me again four weeks after the last session and she reiterated what her mother had told me. Her back is still great; she is enjoying boot camps five days a week now, and feels so much stronger emotionally. Her sinus problems have completely gone and she hasn’t had any problems with her ears. We did a maintenance treatment, "Bringing Qi Home" Ren 12 (Zhongwan), Ren 10 (Xiawan), Ren 6 (Qihai) & Ren 4 (Guanyuan) with "Abdominal Four Gates" St 24 (Huaroumen) & St 26 (Wailing) and Kid 13 (Qixue) which she loved.
Barbara responded incredibly well to treatment and there is no doubt that the abdominal acupuncture helped her to engage with her emotions and by correcting her back problem it gave her the strength to return to her beloved physical boot camp activity which was a catalyst to further recovery. I could not have predicted that she would respond with such a comprehensive and rapid recovery. I would have expected her to need at least ten sessions to get the results she achieved in four!