The Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective On Pain
Pain is a universal experience, but the way we perceive and treat it can vary widely across cultures and medical traditions. In this journey, we'll delve into the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to gain fresh perspectives on how to manage pain in our daily lives. From transformative strategies to unexpected approaches, TCM offers a holistic view of pain that can enhance your understanding and relief.
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Understanding Pain: Acute and Chronic
To effectively address pain, it's crucial to distinguish between two primary classifications: acute and chronic.
Acute Pain: This type of pain is often sharp and sudden, serving as an immediate alarm system. It's the body's way of warning us about specific issues, such as a burn or sprain. Acute pain is like a "protective signal" that is typically short-lived and prompts caution to prevent further damage.
Chronic Pain: Chronic pain, on the other hand, is a persistent discomfort that can linger for extended periods, significantly affecting our quality of life. It may result from long-term conditions or improperly healed past injuries. Chronic pain encompasses physical, psychological, and social elements, demanding a holistic approach for effective treatment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine's Perspective on Pain
TCM offers a profound understanding of pain rooted in centuries-old texts. According to these sources, pain is perceived as a disruption in the flow of Qi (energy) and blood, often associated with cold pathogenic influences. Factors like Wind, Cold, Dampness, and Dryness are known to disrupt the circulation of Qi, resulting in pain, which can be treated with dispersing techniques including acupuncture and herbal therapy.
Furthermore, internal imbalances caused by emotional stress or traumatic injuries can also lead to pain. TCM emphasizes the importance of distinguishing diagnostic patterns, such as deficiency (Xu) and excess (Shi), to interpret whether there's stagnation or obstruction of vital substances like Blood, Qi, Yin, and Yang. This distinction is crucial for acupuncturists and healers in tailoring treatments.
Over 3 million Americans attend acupuncture treatments every year. According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, studies show that acupuncture can work particularly well for chronic pain associated with the back and neck. Additionally, it can work well for osteoarthritis and knee pain. Acupuncture has also shown to help to reduce the incidence as well as the severity of tension headaches and can help to prevent migraines. The NIH has stated that acupuncture is a "reasonable option for people with chronic pain to consider”.
Research from an international team of experts adds to the evidence that acupuncture provides real relief from common forms of pain. The team of researchers aggregated the results of 29 studies with nearly 18,000 participants. They found that overall acupuncture relieved the pain they experienced by about 50%. The results were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This research has also been cited by Harvard Health Publishing.
Patients often find that the positive treatment effects of acupuncture persist over time. Pain relief in acupuncture treatments may come from inactivating the source of pain by modulating endorphin levels which has been demonstrated in a separate review article published in Practical Pain Management.
Targeting the Root Causes
In TCM, a fundamental treatment principle is "急則治標，緩則治本" (ji zé zhì biāo, huǎn zé zhì běn), which translates to "Treat the symptoms when they are acute; treat the root causes when they are chronic." This approach advocates for addressing acute symptoms immediately while also delving into the underlying causes during chronic stages.
Acute Pain Management: For acute pain, the primary objective is immediate relief through acupuncture. Acupuncture aims to pain relief by adjusting the flow of Qi, eliminating stagnation of blood, regulating the pain response and calming the mind.
Chronic Pain Management: Chronic conditions require a holistic approach which can involve acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping and moxibustion. This strategy aims to identify and treat the deep-rooted causes of pain, enhancing overall circulation, organ function, supplementing deficiencies, and restoring balance in the body to fundamentally alleviate suffering.
Recognizing Hidden Pain Signals
Pain isn't always straightforward, sometimes manifesting through subtle signs like swelling, redness, or even emotional stress. Vigilance toward these sneaky signals can empower a proactive approach to pain management. TCM employs diagnostic tools involving facial expressions, pulse examination, and assessing skin and tongue conditions to uncover these hidden signs.
A Holistic Approach to Relief
Pain, with its multifaceted nature, requires a deep understanding for effective treatment. TCM, with its rich history and timeless wisdom, illuminates the path toward such treatments. Whether it's through acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping or mindful living, embracing it can unlock efficient pain management strategies and enhance your quality of life, one step at a time. If you seek guidance on this journey, consider consulting with a TCM expert to explore these time-tested approaches in your modern life.
Health Wise Head Practitioner
Troy William Sing
Troy Sing is a Hong Kong Registered Practitioner of Chinese Medicine who has over thirty years of extensive clinical experience in Pain management, Reproductive Medicine, Gynecology, and Andrology. A graduate of Australia’s Chinese Medicine Degree (acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, neuromuscular massage) Program, he has also completed a Masters in neuro-physiology investigating the analgesic mechanisms of acupuncture (1995).
Troy's publications include ‘The Analgesic Mechanisms of Acupuncture, Journal of Chinese Medicine, 1996; and co-author of ‘Health Beauty & Vitality: A woman’s Guide to Chinese medicine’ 2004. He has held the post of the course coordinator and lecturer at the University of Hong Kong’s Traditional Chinese Medicine Department (S.P.A.C.E.) (1997-2001). President of the Hong Kong Medical Acupuncture Association (2002-2005). Further post-graduate studies include Gynecology, Reproductive medicine, Andrology, and Sports Science.
Over the last decade, the most influential courses he has completed include SiYuan Balance Method Acupuncture level 1 (Dr. Eileen Han Ph.D.), Pulsynergy Herbology Level 1-IV (Dr. Jimmy Chang), NeiJing Acupuncture (Dr. Ed Neal MD), and HunYuan Chinese Herbal Medicine (Dr. Yaron Seidman Ph.D.).
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