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Back Pain Homework

New Leaf Clinic

John-Paul Davies Acupuncturist Toowoomba 

Lisa Hanfileti has a simple back exercise for people wanting to fast track their back pain treatment. Lisa Hanfileti is a Licenced Acupuncturist in Vancouver

Back Pain Homework: Sleeping instructions for people recovering from back pain


  1. Remove the pillow from your bed, lay down flat on your back so your head is on the mattress. Let your arms rest alongside your body with your palms facing up or down, whichever is most comfortable.
  2. Place the pillow (or several pillows depending on comfort level) under your knees. Giving the knees a slight bend takes pressure off the lower back without adding weight to the spine.
  3. Take a few deep breaths.
  4. This may be the first time in ages that your neck has been been in vertical alignment (on the same horizontal plane) as the rest of your spine. Laying down without a pillow under your head can cause your sinuses to drain slightly differently. Don’t worry, it’s not a bad thing. It just might make you feel strange, even dizzy at first. Often the sinuses will open up and you’ll notice you can breathe more easily. Some people even report that they snore less in this position.
  5. If you want a little support for your neck, roll up a hand towel and place that underneath the curve. Be sure it is not pressing up on your neck. This little bit of support can also help to prevent your head from twisting to one side.
  6. Again, take a few deep breaths.
  7. Allow yourself to lay in this position for at least 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the towel under your neck and replace it with your pillow and give yourself permission to get into whatever position is most comfortable to sleep. Sleep in the most important thing and we are not trying to interrupt your sleep.
  8. However, if you should wake up during the night, to go to the bathroom or change positions, repeat the process by removing your pillow, placing in under your knees and laying on your back “for 5 minutes”. After 5 minutes, take the pillow from under your knees and put it under your head and give yourself permission to get into whatever position is most comfortable to sleep.
  9. When it’s time to get up in the morning, lay on your back for 5 minutes as described above. Take deep breaths and feel your neck and spine, shoulders and hips in perfect alignment. If you wake to an alarm, set the clock 5 minutes early and hit the snooze button so you can easily remember to do this each morning before you start your day.
  10. Disclaimer: Back pain can occur for a variety of reasons, some requiring urgent and immediate care. Do not use this information in the place of proper medical evaluation and care from qualified medical provider.

As an acupuncturist, most of the patients I see typically have back pain associated with, but not limited to, one or more of the following;

  • arthritis
  • car accident or traumatic injury
  • fall or misstep
over use of specific activities
  • scoliosis/poor posture
  • sitting/driving for extended periods of time
  • disk fractures, herniations
  • degenerative changes or abnormalities post surgical trauma
  • obesity
  • medication side effects

  • unknown origin

Examination by an allopathic physician is always recommended, especially to get imaging studies, like X-ray, MRI or CT scans. Although scans may not identify a specific cause of the pain, they can often rule out things that may require emergency surgery or specific treatments (like cancer). Once other sources of pain are ruled out a doctor’s treatment recommendations may include a 6-week course of NSAIDS, cortisone shots, referrals for massage, physical therapy, acupuncture and/or in some cases neurological evaluations. The approach is usually try the least invasive thing first then continue with more invasive options if the pain does not go away.

Examination by an acupuncturist involves identifying the location of the pain, the channels involved, range of motion limitations, and the conditions that trigger and alleviate the pain.Regardless of the channels and pattern causing the pain, Acupuncturist employs a simple treatment strategy based on the idea that all pain is caused by stagnation (poor circulation) and therefore removing the stagnation (increasing circulation), eliminates the pain and promotes healing.

Acupuncture is the method used to increase circulation in the specific channels that are stagnant. When energy and blood flow are returned to the diseased part of the body/back, then true healing can occur.That is, unless there’s something else getting in the way of this healing circulation.

Whatever type of treatment you are receiving, it will not provide lasting (or any) benefit if you are restricting circulation to the area of the back that is in need of healthy blood, oxygen, energy, nourishment, etc. If you like to sleep on your sides or on your stomach then there’s a good chance you’re causing your back pain to get worse or not improve.


Because how you position your body while you sleep can either promote circulation or prevent circulation. Remember that according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, healing occurs when stagnation is removed and circulation returns. So if acupuncture is successful in restoring circulation and relieving back pain, but every night you sleep in such a way that your body re-patterns the stagnation, then your pain may return.

Disclaimer: Back pain can occur for a variety of reasons, some requiring urgent and immediate care. Do not use this information in the place of proper medical evaluation and care from qualified medical provider.Causes of back pain: Back pain can be caused by anything from kidney stones to muscle strain and cancer to a fractured vertebrae. Before using any of the information in this document you should have a thorough examination to determine the root cause of your back pain.