In April 2013, I was a 1st year resident working on the obstetrics floor. I worked long stressful hours taking care of pregnant patients who were in labor. One day, I was helping my patient deliver her baby. My supervisor was a 5foot tall midwife who insisted that the bed should be low for her height and that the bed should not be broken. She instructed me to stand on the side of the bed and bend over to deliver the baby. I’m 5’8” and needed to extremely bend over sideways in an awkward position to catch the baby safely. After a 45min delay in the delivery and a third degree laceration repair that took me another 45min to complete, I finally stood up straight and felt an excruciatingly painful low back muscle pull that led to an immediate spasm of my entire low back muscles. A couple days later, to make matters worse, I sneezed very hard and felt another popping sensation of my low back muscle and since then for many months, I walked around like a zombie hunched over and writhing in pain in my low back.
I was working at California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles, where I was surrounded by lots of medical doctors, but none of them could really help me with my low back pain / spasms. I went to the ER one day because I collapsed in the hospital lobby when I had an episode of an extremely painful low back muscle spasm that made me feel weak in my legs. The ER doc looked at me and did not order any tests and told me I should get better within 4-6weeks with taking analgesics and muscle relaxants. He gave me a pill of Ibuprofen 800mg and Flexeril 100mg. I took those pills and lay on the ER bed for a half an hour and rested until the muscle spasms subsided. Since I had to get back to my clinical duties, I got up from the ER bed and slowly walked out of the ER. But when I got to the hallway, I had another episode of muscle spasms that brought me down to my knees. I had to call my senior resident to cover my shift for the rest of the afternoon and I had to crawl back to my car and go home.
For 10months, I had a constant low back pain that would get really intense throughout the day whenever I tried to stand up straight or get up from sitting. Whenever I had a low back muscle spasm, I would quietly go into a private bathroom cell or in the call room and pound on my back muscles to relax them but then would feel electrifying muscle twitches that were out of control. Whenever I drove in my car, getting into the car seat was such a struggle. Whenever I was driving over a speed bump, my low back muscles would tense up and cause me to cringe. Getting out of the car would take about 20min grabbing on to the car door and gradually fumbling my way out in the most cautious way not to instigate muscle spasms.
I thought since I had always been young and healthy, I would be able to tough it out and that magically it would go away. However, this low back pain was very stubborn. I went to a worker’s comp health clinic to get X-rays of my spine and they said it was completely normal. However, everyday was a battle trying to clench my teeth to endure the pain or sometimes I would take pain killer medicines that would make me very sleepy that I could not function properly as a resident physician.
I tried Thai massage, which only aggravated the pain and muscle spasms and made me cry. In January of 2014, I finally decided that I needed to do something different about this low back pain. One day, I went to a yoga class and attempted the easy poses that I had always been able to do, but then again, I had another really bad episode of low back muscle spasm that I ended up crying in the middle of class and stayed in Savasana until the end of the class. The yoga teacher came up to me and recommended getting acupuncture. I had never tried acupuncture before so I was unsure if it would help me with my pain. But at that time, I was desperate to try anything other than drugs or surgery. She told me to look up a Dr. Jing in Santa Monica who was known to be pretty good.
So I went after 10months of agony to try out acupuncture for the first time in my life. The first time I got the treatment, she put needles all over my back and cupped my low back muscles and gave me some Chinese herbal supplements that would strengthen my gallbladder system. I felt 50% better 4 hours after I got the acupuncture treatment. 5days later, I went back to get a second treatment and then noticed my low back pain went away entirely. I no longer had low back muscle spasms and could stand up straight and sit down without feeling discomfort. I was so happy that I danced.
I was amazed at the healing power of TCM in treating low back pain. I had been trained to become a primary care doctor in medical school and in my family medicine residency training, but not knowing how to practice acupuncture and TCM seemed like missing out on a lot of tools that could help patients with chronic illnesses. Up until then, I treated about 550 patients in my family medicine residency clinic and a majority of them came in with low back pain that had been going on for months and years and all I was trained to do was to prescribe them with a 30-day supply of pain killer medicines. They would come back to the clinic in a month and complain of the same low back pain, hunched over in the same painful posture and get a refill prescription of the pain killer meds from me again. This was all we MDs were trained to do. None of my supervising MDs knew anything better than prescribing painkiller medicines and referring to physical therapy. I felt so sick to my stomach when I did this because deep down in my heart, I knew I was not really helping those patients at all. I was merely masking their symptoms without addressing the underlying problem and what was worse was that many of these patients were becoming addicted to the pain killer medicines and would become more and more disabled as time went by. I really felt unfulfilled by practicing the conventional family medicine alone. Luckily, I found a comprehensive acupuncture course for physicians that would train MDs like me to practice acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine as an adjunct to my Western medicine practice.
Over the course of a year and a half, I finished the acupuncture course and Chinese herbal medicine course and got certified as a medical acupuncturist. I started my private practice in medical acupuncture and have been fascinated by the healing power of TCM. I changed from being a doctor to a healer.
In my Medical Acupuncture Private Practice in Northern California and have been able to treat numerous low back pain patients with acupuncture and Chinese herbal supplements and educate them about healthier life style modifications to keep a healthy low back long term.
Having had low back pain and learning to overcome it has changed my life ultimately for the better. This website compiles all the information about how to holistically heal low back pain without drugs or surgery.
Did you enjoy reading this article? If you want to stay in touch and keep getting great tips and updates about holistic healing of low back pain, please sign up for my free newsletter and you will get to instantly download my popular checklist about The 6 Fundamentals of Healing Low Back Pain!