Low back pain occurs when the connective tissues and discs go into spasm or become damaged and/or inflamed. A complex muscle called the quadratus lumborum is the one most commonly involved in low back pain. Visualize a web of muscle fibers attached to the bottom of the lower ribs that extends down to the hipbone on both sides of the spine. Since humans are “upright animals,” the low back is subject to numerous forces that can weaken or destabilize this muscle. Functionally, this muscle serves to stabilize the lumbar spine and “brake” bending to the side. It is so important that complete paralysis of the quadratus lumborum makes walking impossible. Therefore, strengthening and restoring mobility to this muscle is a main object of therapy.
The most useful method is to combine herbs that relieve spasm, restore flexibility, increase circulation and reduce inflammation. A good combination might include carthamus flower, myrrh gum, prickly ash bark, turmeric root, boswellia gum and lobelia herb. TCM doctors also use tu huo root (Angelica pubescens), lu lu tong fruit (Liquidambar taiwaniana), eucommia bark (du zhong or E. ulmoides), and loranthus branches (sang ji sheng or Viscum album). When a patient with low back pain experiences degenerative changes due to osteoarthritis, treat according to the guidelines provided in our discussion of osteoarthritis.