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A Scaffolder’s Sciatica and All Over Back Pain!


Frank had been in the building trade since he was 18 years old. He worked as a scaffolder, which often involved carrying tons of metal scaffolding poles up ladders to immense heights. He worked and played hard during the building boom years in Ireland. The work had taken its toll on his body, in particular his back. He had to quit this specialist high-paying job as a result of sciatica which had hospitalized him on a number of occasions. He had two herniated lumbar disc’s (L-3 & L-4) and his upper back from C-7 to T-7, also caused him problems which often resulted in referred pain down either or both arms!

Frank had been unable to work for almost five years and he went through bouts of sciatic pain that could last for months, during these periods the pain could be so bad that he would not be able to move at all. He always had a background pain level of 5 out of 10, which went up to 10 when severe. This recent bout of severe pain had started two weeks previously and he was aware of the pattern of events that usually occurred and was expecting to be laid up for a number of months!

When he first came for treatment, without me explaining how I reference the pain for abdominal acupuncture he said that the pain was at 10 out of 10. The pain was on both sides of his lumbar and travelling down both legs along the UB meridians towards UB 40.

Treatment started with the Bagua treatment using 8 needles around the naval to open and balance the Abdominal Meridian System (AMS). I left the needles in for 10 minutes and then started with an abdominal prescription which aimed to stop his pain and help the vertebrae to move back into place and reduce the impact of the herniated discs.

Slide 1 the opening the AMS / Bagua treatment.

Fig 1 Frank’s first AA treatment for his sciatica.

Franks prescription I used “Bringing Qi Home” with harmonising the lower Jiao, I also used the four gates, Kid 13 bilaterally, Ab 7 (Qipang) was used to address the back pain and open the gate to allow Kid Qi move down the opposite leg. I needled Ren 9 (Shuifen) to a depth of 0.7cun to ease swelling and help reduce the swelling of the herniated discs. I isolated 2 ahshi points on each St 26 hip point and these were put to a depth of 0.4 cun which gave great pain relief in the lumbar area. I included bilateral Ab 4 (knee) and Ab 6 (ankle) to complete the circuit of Qi moving down the legs and therefore give Frank better relief from the sciatic pain. Following this treatment Frank was completely pain free, his pain had reduced by 50% with the initial AMS points, which provided a powerful foundation to build upon. When Frank was leaving he was delighted that his pain was gone and he had a new optimism that he would not have to endure months of pain again.

Frank returned six weeks later and told me that he had no lumbar or sciatic pain since, this was “unheard of” in his history of back problems and he was feeling great. On this occasion, his upper back was causing him pain. The problem area was affecting the UB (foot Tai Yang meridian) and Du Mai at the level of vertebrae T-7. He was in a lot of pain and scored his pain at 10 out of 10. I once again started Frank’s treatment by opening the AMS with 8 needles within a 0.5 cun radius of the wall of the belly button, the needles are directed towards the umbilicus at 45-degree angle and go to a depth of 0.5 cun. The needles were left for 10-15 minutes and then I did an abdominal acupuncture session to address his pain.

Slide 2 Franks second treatment for upper back pain.

Fig 2. Frank’s second treatment for upper back pain.

Frank again declared that the majority of his pain was gone following the AMS / lotus flower treatment. Because of the extent of his back problems I consolidated with Points Ren 12 (Zhongwan) and Ren 4 (Guanyuan) these will open the Du mai and harmonise the Ht and Kidney, while also supplementing the Kidney energy with postnatal Qi from the Spleen and Stomach these points were left at the border of the Heaven level i.e. 0.5 cun. Iused Ren 9 (Shuifen)as it is anatomically level with T-7 and would address the T-7 Du Mai pain initially I left this point at a depth of 0.4 cun, as Ren 9 (Shuifen) can also reduce any inflammation and treat herniated disc’s, after 15 minutesI altered the depth and put it to a depth of 0.75 cun to activate this function. I located ahshi points close to the Kidney meridian on both sides of Ren 9, these were needled to a depth of 0.4 cun also.I added Sp 15 (Daheng) to treat the back ease pain and nourish muscle and joint pain, I finally included Ab 1 (Liv Qi pt) on the right to work on his liver which had been damaged by excessive drinking over a 25 year period. Once again Frank left feeling like a new man. He said he was completely pain free and was very relaxed. 


This case highlights the speed and the therapeutic power of abdominal acupuncture. In this case I chose to start both treatments with the AMS opening, Bagua treatment, I was surprised at how much relief this treatment gave and the longevity of the treatment was amazing. Frank would normally be looking at a recovery time of six months, in this case it was one treatment. The following session for the upper back problems I also chose to use the naval Bagua as he has had such a difficult few years with his alcoholism and because I knew it would be a long time until I see him again. The immediate results were once again fast and comprehensive.

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