Pain According to Chinese Medicine

We have seen that muscle-joint pain is classified as bi or impediment, and whenever there is impediment, there is pain.  The following simple yet profund statement sums up the very essence of the Chinese medical view of pain:

If there is free flow, ther is no pain;
If there is no free flow, there is pain.

This means that, as long as qi (vital energy) and blood flow freely and smoothly without hindrance or obstruction, there is no pain in the body.  However, if, due to any reason, the flow of qi and blood is hindered, blocked, obstructed, or does not flow freely, then there will be pain.  Thus, in Chinese medicine, pain is nothing other than the felt experience of lack of free flow of the qi and blood.  As an extension of this, all muscle-joint pain is also nothing other than the exprience of the lack of free flow of the qi and blood.

There are two main causes of the lack of free flow of the qi and blood.  Either 1) something is hindering, blocking or obstructing the smooth and uninhibited flow of qi and blood through the channels and vessels, or 2) there is insufficent qi and blood to maintain smooth and free flow.  In the first case, lack of free flow is likened to a plug of hair and soap in a drainpipe.  The water from the sink cannot flow freely because something is physically obstructing the pipe.  In the second case, either there is insufficient qi to push the blood or insufficient blood to nourish the vessels.  It is the function of the vessels to promote the flow of blood.  If the vessels do not obtain sufficent blood, they cannot fulfill this function, and, therefore, the blood will cease to flow freely within them.

All pain, no matter what its modern Western medical diagnosis, is considered by Chinese medicine as a problem with free flow of qi and blood.  Hence, when presented with a case in which pain is an important symptom, the Chinese medicine practitioner's job is to first diagnose the reason for the non-free flow of qi and blood and, second, to provide treatment which restores that free flow. 

The flow of qi and blood can become inhibited in any and every area of the body:  the internal organs, the muscles, the head, the low back, and the extremities and joints.  For example, when we overeat and have acute indigestion with the accompanying sensations of abdominal fullness, bloating, and distention, these symptoms are due to the stagnation of stomach qi.  In this case, the stomach qi cannot move freely through the excessive amount of food and drink in the stomach.  Likewise, when we bruisde ourselves and blood escapes from the blood vessels and then pools, we experience a mild form of blood stagnation, technically called blood stasis in Chinese medicine.  In both these cases, the stagnation is not serious,  We fell better within a short time and are free of symptoms when the qi and blood resume their proper functioning and flow freely.

Accoding to Chinese medicine, the sensations of pain due to qi stagnation or blood stasis are different.  Qi stagnation causes a feeling of distention or sorness that fuctuates in intensity and location.  Qi stagnation pain often occurs with strong emotional changes.  Blood stasis, on the other hand, is characterized by painful swelling or stabbing sharp pain at a specific, fixed location.

It is also possibel for the qi an blood flow to become inhibited because of insufficiency of the qi, blood, or both.  In this case, the pain is not severe  but is enduring.  If due to qi and blood insufficiency, the pain is worse after rest and better after light use.  This is becuase, during rest or immobilization, there is insufficent qi and blood to keep the qi and blood moving.  Movement itself helps to pump the qi and blood through the mobilized area.  Therefore, movement tends to make this type of pain better. 

This is exactly what most people suffering from fibromyalgia say of their muscle-joint pain.  It is worse in the morning after lying in bed and better as they move about during the day.  However, all exercise and exertion does consume the qi and blood.  Therefore, when pain is associated with qi and blood vacuity, light exercise improves the pain, but heavy exercise and overtaxation make it worse. 

 In order for a Chinese medical practiontioner to diagose and treat impediment conditions, he or she must answer the following questions:

1. Is the pain due to blockage of the qi and blood or is it due more to the insufficiency of qi and blood?
2. If the pain is due to blockage, is the pain more characteristic of qi stagnation or blood stasis?
3.  What pathogenic factors are causing the qi and blood stagnation?
4.  What channels or network vessels are primarily involved in the pain?
5.  What internal organs are involved?

The answers to these questions directly determine the treatment the patient will receive from their Chinese medical practitioner.  The basic principle of treatment in Chinese medicine is to restore balance.  Therefore, the Nei Jing (Inner Classic) says that, if a disease is due to too much of something, that something should be drained.  It it is due to too little of something, that something should be supplemented.  If it is due to heat, that heat should be cooled.  If it is due to cold, that cold should be warmed.  If it is due to dryness, that dryness should be moistened.  And if it is due to dampness, that dampness should be dried. 

In Chinese medicine, two patines with the same Western medical disease may receive radically different Chinese medicine treatment because the root cause of their disease is different.  This means that every patient in Chinese medicine is given an individualized treatment based on the cause and nature of their particular pattern of disharmony. 

From "Curing Fibromyalgia Naturally with Chinese Medicine" by Bob Flaws
Pain According to Chinese Medicine - Reishi Acupuncture Clinic in San Gabriel California