Acupuncture and herbal medicine have proven highly effective in treating various pain disorders, including but not limited to back pain, joint pain, knee pain, leg pain, neck and shoulder pain, and other forms of pain. This article delves into the traditional Chinese medicine perspective on understanding pain.
Distinguishing Types of Pain
Pain disorders are a common occurrence, stemming from the inevitable wear and tear on our bodies. While pain may appear uniform, its pathology is intricate, with different causes leading to various pain conditions. Chinese medicine and acupuncture have been employed to address a wide range of pain, including back pain, leg pain, neck pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, and more. This article explores the potential causes and pathology of pain, along with how traditional Chinese medicine offers remedies.
Discerning Pain Pathology
Several factors help differentiate pain, such as its anatomical location, the type of affected tissue, onset, severity, and causative factors. For instance, bone and tendon pain call for different treatment approaches than muscular or vascular-related pain.
Moreover, factors like a patient’s age, strength, and overall health influence the treatment strategy employed in Chinese medicine. Pain is distinguished between patients with robust constitutions and those with weaker constitutions. For example, treating a debilitated 80-year-old patient would necessitate a gentler approach compared to a robust 21-year-old.
Exploring Various Pain Types
Neurological Involvement in Pain
Neurologically related pain often presents with numbness, tingling, shooting sensations, and radiating pain. This results from sensory nerve receptors transmitting impulses to the central nervous system. However, neurological involvement differs from neurologically-derived pain.
In cases of neurological involvement, nerves may become compressed or compromised by tendons and other structures. Treating this type of pain often requires releasing the involved structures. For instance, sciatic nerve impingement by the piriformis muscle may lead to hip pain radiating to the foot, necessitating the release of gluteal muscles. In neurologically-derived pain, there is actual nerve damage, such as neuropathy, and treatment involves restoring nerve functionality through improved circulation.
Vascular Involvement in Pain
In Chinese medicine, pain often arises from blood circulation stagnation, which can affect surrounding nerves. Further discussion on this topic will be provided in the “Treatment of Pain with Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine” section of this article.
Traumatic pain results from direct tissue damage. Treating this type of pain involves reducing inflammation and promoting cellular regeneration in the affected areas. It’s advisable to avoid exerting the affected areas until substantial recovery occurs.
Spinal and Back Pain
Back pain is a common condition treated by acupuncture, but it’s more complex than it appears. It can be vascular-related due to poor circulation, or it may stem from spinal conditions like stenosis or disc herniation, both considered neurologically-involved pain. Poor circulation and weakened sinews can also inadvertently lead to disc herniation, often accompanied by inflammation.
The Chinese Medicine Perspective on Pain
Chinese medicine perceives pain as a disruption in the circulation of bodily substances. The body comprises numerous pathways for blood, platelets, lymph, fluids, electrolytes, neurotransmitters, and other substances—all contributing to the balance of “yin and yang” energy. These pathways, referred to as “channels,” supply substances to various body tissues, including blood vessels, nerve tissue, lymphatic vessels, interstitial tissue, and muscle fibers. When their circulation is disrupted, it constrains local consciousness, resulting in pain. Chinese medicine also considers the body’s thermodynamics; for instance, cold can cause muscle and tendon tightening, necessitating a warming treatment approach.
Treating Pain with Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
Acupuncture and herbal medicine can unblock circulation, thereby alleviating pain. Acupuncture involves inserting needles at specific points to guide circulation and nerve conduction, stimulating a healing response that reduces inflammation, releases muscle and sinew tension, and promotes cellular repair. Herbal medicine operates similarly, providing substances to facilitate healing and exerting anti-inflammatory effects systemically.
These ancient healing practices have adapted to modern needs and are widely accessible. Patients seeking relief can find these services available seven days a week throughout the country. In Chicago, numerous clinics offer acupuncture treatment; see below for available locations.