Acupuncture combining Chinese herbs help polymyositis with severe back pain

Patient has been using corticosteroid medicines for long-term after diagnosed with polymyositis. These has many side effects after long-time use; moreover in some cases, it is difficult to control the symptoms of polymyostis even with the medicine. The treatment of polymyositis involves the acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine which can help improve the patient’s conditions, and help them staying on a low dose of corticosteroid medicine without any side effects. We had a successful case using acupuncture combined with Chinese herbs to help a patient diagnosed with polymyositis. He had been using corticosteroid medicines for 2 years but still had severe back pain and was in very poor conditions, as described below.

A 70 year old man came into office seeking help for his polymyositis with back pain. He had been taking corticosteroid medicines for 2 years. His main symptoms were severe pain in his middle, lower back and hips, which accompanied stiffness in muscle in his neck, shoulders and legs. It was very difficult to bend his back and there were some movement limitations in his lower back. These conditions worsen when walking and improved when laying down for relaxation. He did not have any pain in his limbs or had any skin problems. He needed to use a cane or a walker to walk slowly, he could not straighten his back due to pain and it was difficult to get up bed. He had a weakness in the limb muscles, his body was thin, lost 5lbs during past 2 years, most of the times he felt fatigued and his sense of balance was off. His appetite decreased and could not taste foods, constantly feeling full, and always belching and gassy. He had constipation with difficult bowel movements once every 1 or 2 days. He frequently urinates with up to 3 to 4 times a night. He had a history of hypertension and had been taking medicines for 10 years.

Examination showed tenderness and painful sensation with a slight touch or pressure as detailed below. There were painful sensations in his middle to lower back at the L10 to S1 at a slight touch, which he placed at 4-6/10. Slight touch to his hips was also painful, reported as 3-4/10. The Ears Pressure Test showed that there was significant painful sensation to touch in the corresponding parts of his head, neck, waist, leg, shenmen, stomach and rectum – he described his level of pain in these areas as 5-7/10. His tongue was medium sized, teeth mark on the end, a pale white color. His pulse was thin, weak and wiry. He had a thin body, sallow skin with dark spots on his face. There was muscles atrophy with weakness in his limbs.

Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, his diagnosis was qi deficiency in Kidney and Spleen and blood stasis in his conditions. The treatment principle was to strengthen the Spleen, tonify Kidney Qi, invigorate the blood and dispel stasis to stop pain. The acupuncture points included DU2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, DU20, Hautuojiaji-T10, 11, 12, L1, 2, 3, 4, 5, S1, 2, LI4, ST36, SP6, UB54 and UB 57. Acupuncture was administered for 15 minutes once a week. The ear points included head, neck, back and shenmen, among others.

The Chinese herbal formula included herbs such as Huang Qi, Dang Shen, Bai Zhu, Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong, Bai Shao, Huang Jing, Shu Di Huang, Gan Cao and Rou Gui. This was prescribed as a 50g herbal powder Rx for one week, to be taken orally three times a day, 2g per dose, mixed with 2-3 oz. of warm water.

After acupuncture treatment, he reported that his back pain improved. After a few weeks with acupuncture treatments, his back pain was gone, and his other conditions improved a lot such as fatigue, constipation, frequentation of urination, his appetite was normal and could taste food, and back movement was much better. He could walk normally and did not need to use a cane or a walker. Then he asked Chinese herbs for 6 months when he went up north. Follow up, he visited the clinic with his wife to refill his Chinese herbs with acupuncture treatment once or twice a year. His wife said “your medicines helped him”. Two years after his first treatment, he was still pain free and kept up normal daily activities with his Chinese herbal medicine while on a low dosage of corticosteroid medicine.