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Back pain

Wednesday 30th July

“I envisaged it being a life-long problem” Chantal Cooke, from Surrey, explains how acupuncture finally cured years of back pain.

Following a fall on some concrete steps at the age of 11, Chantal Cooke, now 45, has been left with a hard lump of scar tissue at the base of her spine and ongoing back problems. Various x-rays have come back normal and yet Chantal has lived with daily niggling pain – sometimes incapacitating agony.

As a busy professional with desk job, Chantal admits that sitting for long periods exacerbates her condition but otherwise doesn't really know what triggers the pain. She has to be careful in her everyday life and has had to give up horse-riding. Being a naturally active character, she was tempted by kayaking and rock climbing but couldn't take the risk. “There was no way my back would hold out,” she explains.

Chantal is determined to keep fit all the same: she enjoys Pilates and follows an individual gym programme with a trainer. With her back muscles often in spasm, she feels that her legs and arms have had to become stronger to compensate.

For her, it was a question of exercising through her back problems, as she was wary of becoming too reliant on painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication. “I envisaged this being a life-long problem and I thought 'I could be taking these all the time',” she explains.

Acupuncture advocate

Last summer, a friend recommended acupuncture, though Chantal admits she was sceptical that it could work on back pain. Having tried osteopathy, massage therapy and Pilates in the past, however, she decided to give it a go.

The first three sessions had no obvious effect on her back, she recalls. “But I noticed lots of other things had improved – my sleep had improved and I had a lot more energy – and so I decided to carry on.” The fourth session was a turning point, when the acupuncture therapist started to apply the super-fine needles to the scar tissue in her glute.

“Next morning I woke up and it was completely different,” says Chantal. “I jumped out of bed, without creaking, and could move around and wiggle my hips – all the things that would normally cause aggravation. It was amazing!”

The therapist continued to work on breaking down the scar tissue over a total of eight or nine sessions. It was blocking the flow of energy (or “chi”) through her body, effectively acting as a dam and causing pain in the lower back problem.

For Chantal, the effect was dramatic. Her personal trainer has seen the difference (“there's just so much more movement”), as has her massage therapist, who says the scar tissue is softer and the area has reduced in size. Friends and family, as well as her partner, have also commented on the improvement.

“In the gym, at Zumba, in day to day life, there was no pain – no pain at all,” says Chantal. “And so much more strength. I never imagined it would work so well.”

Once a sceptic, this personal experience has convinced Chantal of the benefits of acupuncture. As there is still some scar tissue left, she plans to go back to her acupuncturist for annual maintenance sessions.

“If I'd even thought it would possibly have a chance of working, I'd have done it years ago!” she says.

Further information

Read more about complementary and alternative medicine along with topics on keeping healthy in our a healthier you section. You can also find out about the complementary therapies, including acupuncture, that are covered by our cash plans

Thanks to the British Acupuncture Council for putting us in touch with Chantal Cooke. Visit the BAcC website to find out more about acupuncture, or to search for an approved acupuncturist in your area.