Using Chinese Medicine to treat pain

Over the past 30-40 years Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine have become widely known and popularly used to successfully treat both chronic and acute pain in Australia.

Chinese Medicine has much to thank journalist James Reston. While touring China on assignment with American President Nixon in 1971 he wrote about his remarkable and miraculous experience of acupuncture to relieve his post-operative appendix pain and thus introduced Chinese Medicine to the West.

Of course acupuncture for pain relief had been practiced long before this time. In fact the earliest systematic discussion on pain management in Chinese Medicine can be traced back to The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine said to have been written around 250 BC.

How Chinese Medicine understands the symptom of pain

The Chinese believe that there are 12 main meridians in the body that act as conduits to circulate energy and nourishment to the whole body from the superficial tissue to the deepest internal organs and bones.

The understanding of how pain manifests is really quite simple and elegant.

There is a saying that goes:

‘….If there is free flow in the meridians there is no pain. If there is pain there is no free flow….’

In other words if the meridian pathways become blocked and the energy flowing within them starts to stagnate or stops moving then pain occurs.  This idea of stagnation can include symptoms associated with relatively less degrees of blockage such as stiffness, tension, discomfort, numbness and paraesthesia (pins and needle sensation usually of the extremities).

There are a number of factors that can cause energy to stagnate in the body such as emotional stress, physical stain, trauma or injury, exposure to environmental elements especial wind and cold and poor dietary habits.

To what degree these factors are contributing to the symptom of pain will need to be assessed by a trained practitioner on a case by case basis.

Muscular-skeletal pain

Acupuncture is generally very effective to treat muscular-skeletal pain in any area of the body including the lower back, knee, elbow, wrist, jaw (TMJ), neck and shoulders.

In fact it has become so well-known and popular that Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Myotherapists and even Western Medical Doctors are now training in a technique known as ‘dry needling’ to add to their treatment repertoires.