Pain Relief with Acupuncture

Bù tōng zé tòng, tōng zé bù tòng

The above statement describes the fundamental understanding of pain in Chinese medicine. It translates roughly to “no free flow implies pain, free flow implies no pain.” When an injury occurs, along with the damage to the tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels, there is damage to the channel system that carries the vital functional energy, Qi. Vessel damage causes leaking, swelling, and bruising; these are visual signs of Qi and blood stasis.

Any body pain, from headaches to abdominal pain or bloating, is the result of the stagnation of Qi and/or blood. Outside of trauma, these stagnations are often caused by contributing factors such as diet or stress.

One of my teachers added a phrase: bù rong zé tòng. This translates to “not nourished implies pain,” and refers to another cause of stagnation, that being deficiency. When there is a lack of substance (either Qi or blood) there is not enough to move, and stagnation ensues.

Acupuncture is used for the purpose of coursing Qi and blood, to remove stagnation and alleviate pain. This is achieved in different ways: working locally at the area of pain, using points that work systemically to course and move Qi and blood, and through balancing the channel system. Dietary and lifestyle changes and herbs will help improve any deficiencies that may lead to stagnation. Along with acupuncture, other techniques are used, such as cupping, gua sha, and Tui Na, to help move out stagnation and, just as importantly, help return proper function to the area.

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