Pain is essentially an unpleasant sensation felt within the body caused by physical injury or an emotional/mental stimulus. There are many management strategies for pain available and even ways to remove pain entirely but for some people there seems to be a lack of relief regardless of therapeutic attempts. This lack of alleviation can be a cause of frustration to many (which leads to more pain) so this article will offer how pain works and is treated according to a Chinese Medicine perspective.
Now before we get into the meat of the article I would like to point out what you are about to read is a generalisation of principles and ideas that have taken thousands of years to formulate. This blog is not written to make anyone a medical expert but rather to help bridge the gap in the knowledge base of the general public.
Pain can be divided into two types within Chinese Medicine:
1) Qi Stagnation
2) Blood Stasis
Qi Stagnation is essentially a blockage of movement that has to do with the energetics in the body. This type of pain will not show up on any modern scan (not yet anyway) and can be defined as a dull, aching or throbbing sensation. Many patients will convey the sensation as being more of a discomfort than anything else.
Blood stasis is a physical blockage that may turn up on scans or tests. It is characterised as sharp stabbing pain that is fixed to a central location. Patients who have a blood stasis type pain will be able to pinpoint exactly where the pain is present.
Qi stagnation left unattended can become Blood stasis.
A metaphor you can imagine is if your plumbing at home is a little weak, you turn the tap to the maximum level and yet the stream still dribbles. Upon inspection there is no blockage to be found but the flow is still weak – this is a Qi stagnation. Now if you turn the tap on and no water comes through at all, check the plumbing and if there is a major blockage preventing anything from working – you have Blood Stasis.
Taking a more medical approach, some women get a soreness in the breasts right before their period. A scan may indicate no signs of blockage however left untreated the pain could turn sharp and manifest as breast lumps (fibroadenoma).
Emotional and mental strain can cause Qi stagnation very easily. Think back to a time when you had a very bad argument right before or during a meal. Did your appetite disappear or did you end up with indigestion? This is the mind body relationship.
Now since Chinese Medicine views pain as either one of these blockages, we have means of assisting patients who suffer from these types of pain. It is not about making the pain disappear for a short amount of time – this would be no better than masking. A real Chinese Medicine Practitioner (Acupuncturist/Herbalist) will discern the root of the problem and work to resolve that. If your pain was a tree then cutting the branches would do little – chop the tree at the trunk and remove the roots so that the pain cannot return.