What is Pain? A Chinese Medicine Perspective.
Have you ever considered the nature of your pain?
Whether it be back pain or cramps, shoulder pain or a migraine, bodily discomfort can be a message – not just a pain in the you know what. At Project DAO we believe pain is our body’s way of communicating with us – tugging us back into the present moment. Be. Here. Now.
Pain is not something to simply ‘get rid of’ (although we can certainly help with that!). There is innate wisdom in it. To dive into the oceanic depths of pain, we asked one of our brilliant acupuncturist’s, Priscilla, to share a little wisdom of her own.
Project DAO: In your understanding, what is pain?
Pain is your body telling you there is an imbalance that needs attention. As the famous Chinese Medicine saying goes, “If there is free flow, there is no pain. If there is no free flow, there is pain.” Something, whether it be external trauma, stress, overwork, diet, lifestyle or the environment, is preventing free flow in your system.
You may have heard your practitioner say your low back pain is due to Kidney Qi deficiency from overwork, or your abdominal pain is due to Cold from eating too many salads and smoothies, or your menstrual cramps are due to Liver Blood Stagnation from emotional stress and lack of exercise, or your chronic shoulder pain is Cold Damp from a poorly healed old injury. These are examples of patterns of imbalance and pathogenic factors that pain could be signalling.
Beyond looking at where your pain is, your practitioner may also ask the nature of pain, the duration, timing, severity, where it travels along the channels and how it fits in the context of your other symptoms. Then a diagnosis and treatment principle can be determined to target its root cause. For example, if the pain is more sharp and fixed, it could point to Cold or Blood Stagnation, as opposed to dull and generalised, which could more likely be Damp or Qi Stagnation.
PD: Is there an emotional link to pain, from your experience?
P: I think we know, at least intuitively, the answer to this one – there absolutely is! We’ve all experienced it whether we’re aware or not. The most common one I see in practice is probably the correlation between frustration, stress or anxiety and neck or menstrual pain. Sometimes just starting off with acupressure to calm the mind and a body scan meditation with breath is enough to facilitate the flow of Qi to facilitate Qi flow, the pain already begins to ease.
PD: How do we remedy pain using Chinese Medicine?
P: Your healing concoction may contain yummy ingredients like acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, Gua Sha, bloodletting (this feels better than it sounds!), herbs, exercise, diet and lifestyle advice. For example, a holistic plan for the patient with low back pain due to Kidney Qi deficiency may include acupuncture with moxibustion to warm and tonify, herbs and foods like seaweed, sesame and bone broth to support the Kidneys, a sincere suggestion to have a restful holiday ASAP, the homework of wearing socks to keep the feet warm, and Water Element Qi Gong to strengthen the channel.