Is it possible to manage, reduce, or even live without chronic pain? Traditional Chinese Medicine views pain differently than Western medicine, and proposes treatments such as acupuncture for the relief of immediate or chronic discomfort.
The TCM Definition of Pain
The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) definition of pain is based on the concepts of Yin and Yang, and is significantly different from the definition of pain proposed by Western medicine.
TCM defines pain as an imbalance between Qi (energy) and Blood. This can be due to a deficiency of Qi, or Blood, or it can happen when Qi and Blood become stuck in a specific place.
Whenever the free flow of Qi and Blood is obstructed, according to TCM, the organs begin to function improperly and, thus, pain develops.
TCM also believes that pain is either exacerbated or alleviated by the emotional state of the patient, and is often caused by stress. TCM does not differentiate between physical and emotional pain: the TCM practitioner treats the “bodymind.”
TCM Pain Control
According to practitioners and devotees, Traditional Chinese Medicine can do the following:
- TCM can reduce the patient’s level of pain.
- TCM can improve the patient’s ability to deal with pain, and can regulate the negative emotions associated with pain, such as fear, anxiety, frustration.
- TCM can increase energy levels, and increase the patient’s ability to perform everyday functions.
- TCM can reduce reliance on Western medications.
- TCM can also enhance the quality of life, and even relieve pain completely.
It is significant to note that TCM is intended to not only treat the pain itself, but also the full range of ailments associated with that pain.
How TCM Practitioners Treat Pain
As with any conventional Western medical practice, the treatment of pain begins with the practitioner taking a detailed history of the patient. According to Peilin, such a history would include many aspects of a patient’s life, such as sleep habits, emotions, diet, exercise, previous operations, and an examination of the patient’s tongue, pulse, skin color, stool, urine, hair, and breath.
The most common TCM treatment of pain is a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicines. Acupuncture is the practice of inserting very thin needles into the skin for the purpose of stimulating specific points in the body. This therapy is intended to balance the movement of energy in the body, and is often accompanied by local massage and the use of moxibustion – a burning stick of dried herbs that applies heat to a specific area, much like a heating pad or hot water bottle.