Treatment of Back and Joint Pain in Chinese Medicine
Anyone who has experienced a painful injury is all too familiar with its consequences, especially the accompanying unpleasant sensation and loss of mobility. Pain is the most frequent reason for physician consultations in the United States and results in half of all Americans to seek medical care annually. Chronic pain is the third most common healthcare problem and impacts productivity, mobility, and quality of life.
Pain relates to a sensation that hurts. If you feel pain it hurts, you feel discomfort, distress and perhaps agony, depending on the severity of it. Pain can be steady and constant, in which case it may be an ache. It might be a throbbing pain – a pulsating pain. The pain could have a pinching sensation, or a stabbing one. Only the person who is experiencing the pain can describe it properly. Pain is a very individual experience.
This article highlights several of the herbal formulas and supplements we use frequently in the clinic to help alleviate acute or chronic pain
In Chinese medicine, physical injuries, whether old or new, are considered to involve a blood stasis syndrome. When something doesn’t move, it creates a logjam and discomfort. The quality of the pain depends on what is being blocked-blood, Qi, yang, etc. Injuries which do not heal within a typical time-a few weeks-may become complicated by other syndromes, both constitutional (e.g., blood deficiency, qi stagnation) and circumstantial (e.g., invasion of wind or damp).
Often when patients complain of pain in any part of an extremity, including shoulder, elbow, wrist, knees, etc., I often pick an appropriate formula such as Pueraria 10 or Angelica 14 which may be appropriate for shoulder, neck, and head pain, with their focus on dispelling wind and regulating qi. For weakness and inflammation of tendons, Acanthopanax 10 provides pain relief and tonification to aid in strengthening activities.
For traumatic injuries such as exercise injuries, or falls I consider formulas such as San Qi 17 and Myrrh Tablets which are blood moving and blood vitalizing formulas. Both formulas include myrrh, frankincense, persica, carthamus, tang-kuei, peony (white or red), cinnamon twig, and curcuma.
Repetitive stress, old injuries, and persisting joint pain are usually treated by adding tonification along with herbs that counter the invasion of wind. Joint problems can be treated by Chiang-huo 13 for wind-damp accumulation or Drynaria 12 for deficiency syndrome.
For low back pain, I would consider a formula such as Eucommia 18 coupled with Acanthopanax 10. Eucommia 18 contains many tonifying and blood moving herbs. In many instances low back pain consists of tight or knotted muscles. The treatment principle is to remove toxins, nourish the blood and relax the muscle and tendons.
Chinese herbs, Acupuncture, cupping, massage, relaxation techniques, and dietary changes, are some of the many things you can do to help you find relief from your pain.