Pain, part 3: Pain in Chinese Medicine

Pain in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine, pain is generally viewed as stagnation. Pain indicates that something is stuck or not flowing properly, whether it be Blood or Qi. There are a number of reasons why this could happen. Trauma is an obvious reason. A deficiency of Qi, or deficiency of Blood would be another.

In ancient China doctors believed that some pain comes from an invasion into the body of energy from outside. Wind, cold, and damp are the primary energies associated with pain. They enter through over-exposure and when our bodies are weak due to poor lifestyle. We have all experienced or know someone that experiences pain made worse by certain kinds of weather. Wind would likely cause pain that moves around or radiates. Cold settles in one spot and can cause pain that is deep or severe. Pain caused by cold might feel cold to the touch. These ideas were likely metaphorical as well. For example, wind can represent change/movement in one’s life. The ancient Chinese doctors understood that excesses of the emotions could cause physical pain.

I think the concepts of pain in Chinese Medicine are compatible with modern understanding of pain, particularly if we remember the saying that the "Mind moves the Qi."

How Does Acupuncture Treat Pain?

In the treatment of pain, Chinese Medicine should address the whole person. One’s hip pain cannot be separated from the health of the mind and the rest of the body. For this reason, points are chosen to treat the local pain, but also the general health of the person. Conceptually, it is believed that proper point selection and needling re-establishes the proper flow of Qi in the body.

Research on acupuncture has also uncovered a number of physiological responses to being needled that support acupuncture’s ability to reduce pain. As Chris Kesser points out in his article, studies show that acupuncture promotes blood flow, stimulates the body’s healing response, releases the body’s natural painkillers, reduces the intensity and the perception of chronic pain, relaxes shortened muscles, and reduces stress. In addition it modulates pain signals coming from peripheral nerves. It creates a cascade of effects that can break the cycle of some types of chronic pain. These are biomedical concepts that are equivalent to restoring the flow of qi.

Schedule a Session

If you’re still in pain at the end of this article, do yourself a favor and schedule a massage or an acupuncture session. Contact me to to schedule an appointment, or contact me if you just want to discuss your concerns.