Back, joint and muscular pains
April 23, 2020
As you already know from the previous articles, Chinese medicine perceives any pain as a sign of stagnation that needs to be dispersed to reduce any unpleasant sensations and make you feel better. Back, joint and muscular pains are no exception from this rule and, as always, it is important to identify the source and character of the pain correctly, as this will determine the appropriate form of treatment.
For example, when treating back pain, first we need to identify the character of the pain (acute/chronic), affected areas of the back and the respective acupuncture channels or meridians involved. Clearing tension from the upper back, neck and shoulders, we will work primarily to clear blockages and move energy in the Gall Bladder and Bladder meridians, using a combination of both local and distal acupuncture points. For lower back pain, we will need to pay a special attention to the source of pain - whether it originates from muscles, spinal nerve compression or kidney imbalances.
Pain in the joints, muscles and ligaments can be caused by overuse, injury, wear and tear and underlying conditions. Arthritis (inflammation of the joints) is a good illustration on how important it is to diagnose the condition correctly so it can be treated effectively. Chinese medicine can differentiate pain as “hot” or “cold” in its nature. Rheumatoid arthritis, commonly characterised by sensation of heat and swelling in the joints, is considered as “hot” pain and treated accordingly in TCM - we can safely use acupuncture, however should avoid using heat on the affected area. The wasting of muscles, tendons and the weakening of the bones in arthritis indicates, in TCM terms, an underlying deficiency of Spleen Qi, Liver Yin and Kidney Yin and Yang. Osteoarthritis, on the contrary, is a “cold” condition, where the aching and stiffness is characteristic of cold and dampness, whereas the deformities developing in the late stages of the condition reflect accumulation of phlegm. In TCM, there is always an underlying deficiency of the Kidneys, and particularly so when the knees are affected.
Conditions affecting joints, muscles and ligaments can be grouped into two big categories:
- Localised disorders, such as arthritis (inflammatory), bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cramps, fasciitis, intervertebral disc prolapse, repetitive strain injury (RSI), spondylosis, sprains and tendinitis.
- Generalised diseases, such as ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia, gout, muscular dystrophy, osteoarthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica and rheumatoid arthritis.
Acupuncture and supplementary treatments (heat lamp, moxa, cupping, massage) can help by reducing the painful sensations, simultaneously moving energy in the affected area, thus improving supply of the nutrients and stimulating the lymphatic flow. As usual, we can use both local and distal acupuncture points, as well as the “imaging” principle (treating one area of the body to affect another), all resulting in a more efficient and pleasant treatment outcome.
Appropriate TCM treatments:
Acupressure - ✅
Acupuncture - ✅
Chinese herbs - ✅
Cupping - ✅
Dietary/Lifestyle advice - ✅
Moxa/Heat lamp - ✅
Qi Gong - ✅
Tuina (meridian massage) - ✅
Number of treatments required - 5-10, depending on the severity of symptoms/duration of disease. Additional maintenance/top-up treatments may be advised.
Frequency of treatments - 1-2 times a week, depending on the severity of symptoms.