Herbs and Acupuncture for Pain

Herbs and Acupuncture for Pain

Chinese Medicine and Herbs for Pain

Where there is pain, there is no flow. That’s where herbs for pain come in.

Where a Western physician sees a nerve, we see flow. When flow is interrupted, pain results. Pain may be caused by:

  • Obstruction (blocked flow due to injury, swelling, or oversupply of qi)
Constraint (restrained flow due to emotional, psychic, or mental constraint)
Vacuity (not enough stuff to flow due to deficiency of qi or blood) Acupuncture is excellent for treating pain, as it invigorates the normal flow of qi and blood. Though most of the research has never been translated from Chinese, there are studies that show the effectiveness of acupuncture for various kinds of pain.There are also many herbal approaches to the treatment and management of pain. There are 2 categories of herbs used to treat pain – Herbs that Move the Blood and Herbs that Move the Qi. For pain due to poor flow of food, there is a third category, Herbs that Relieve Food Stagnation.For best effect, and to reduce side-effects, herbs are usually combined into formulas. The following Chinese herbal medicines are used to treat pain.

Herbs for Pain – Head to Toe

  • Headache from common cold – CHUAN XIONG CHAI TA WAN, Cnidium 9 Pills,
  • Any pain Corydalis Tablets
  • Earache – Lung Tan Xie Gan Wan
  • Sinus Pain – Shen Sinus Pills
  • Toothache (due to yin deficiency heat) – ZHI BAI DI HUANG WAN
  • Sore Throat – Superior Sore Throat Spray Powder
  • Neck and Shoulder Pain – Pueraria 10
  • Chest Pain (Angina) –  DAN SHEN Tablets
  • Rib Pain (from stress) – Free and Easy Pills – XIAO YAO WAN
  • Stomach Pain – Stomach Curing Pills
  • Low Back Pain- Low Back Pills or DU HUO JI SHEN WAN
  • Hernia or Testicular Pain – Citrus Seed Pills – JU HE WAN
  • Leg pain, knee pain, foot pain – Low Back Pills or DU HUO JI SHEN WAN


Acupuncture for Pain Relief

Many believe that acupuncture alleviates pain by causing our bodies to release pain reducing chemical called endorphins. Others believe that acupuncture relieves pain by affecting the body's nervous system. Chinese medicine, however, believes that pain is caused by the stagnation of energy or fluids. When flow is restrained or interrupted, pain occurs, alerting us to the problem. Acupuncturists believe that acupuncture promotes flow to reduce pain. According to acupuncture theory, three causes of pain are:

  1. Obstruction (blocked flow - due to injury, swelling, oversupply or engorgement of Qi or blood )
  2. Constraint (restrained flow - due to emotional, psychic, or mental constraint)
  3. Deficiency (weak flow - due to deficiency of Qi or blood)

Research on Acupuncture and Pain:

There have been many studies supporting the fact that acupuncture is useful in the treatment of pain. Though most have not yet been translated from the Chinese, there have been several in the Western world.

One, at the University of Heidelberg, another at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The studies show that acupuncture works to relieve pain.

In the Heidelberg study, 52 athletes with shoulder pain were divided into a control group and an acupuncture group. Each group received eight 20-minute sessions over a four-week period. The acupuncturists who administered treatment were aware of the different treatments involved, but the subjects were not.

The acupuncture group received real acupuncture therapy. The control group were treated using a special "placebo-needle" which had a blunt tip which touched, but did not penetrate, the skin. Patients in the control group would feel the same pricking sensation. Patients were rated using the modified Constant-Murley score, assigning points to the level of the subject's pain; their ability to perform daily activities; the painless range of motion in their shoulder; and the maximum amount of power in their shoulder. Following treatment, patients in the placebo group improved by an average of 8.37 points. The real acupuncture group improved an average of 19.2 points.

Based on these results, the authors concluded that "acupuncture with penetration of the skin is more effective than placing the needles on similar sites." However, the authors called for a larger, double-blinded study to prove the effectiveness of acupuncture.

In the New Jersey study, twelve patients were monitored using magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), revealing what parts of the brain were being stimulated.

The patients were subjected to pain in the inside or outside of their upper lip. MRI showed that all 12 people reacted strongly to the pain stimulus.

Concurrently, seven subjects received traditional acupuncture at the Hegu point (LI4), an acu-points located between the thumb and forefinger. The remaining five subjects received electro-acupuncture at the same point, with a low-level electrical current being delivered through the needle.

During 30 minutes of treatment, the patients rated their pain level on a scale of one to 10 every five minutes, with the fMRI continually monitoring their brains. In four of the seven subjects who received traditional acupuncture (57%), the fMRI showed considerably decreased levels of brain activity associated with the pain.

"We found activity subsided in 60 to 70 percent of the entire brain," said Wen-Ching Liu, an assistant professor of radiology at UMDNJ and a co-author of the study.

The response was even greater among those who received electro-acupuncture. Pain-related brain activity decreased in all five patients who received electrical stimulation, and those subjects showed a greater tolerance to pain than those who received traditional acupuncture treatment.

"We could see the brain activity associated with the pain subsiding even as the patients reported they were experiencing relief," added Dr. Huey-Jen Lee, the study's lead author. Lee noted that since the MRI definitively showed different brain activity, it was highly likely the increased tolerance to pain was real and not a placebo effect.

"The brain actually shows differences," Lee said, "and that is convincing."

Information on this site is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your own physician or another medical professional. We make no claim as to efficacy or safety of herbs for pain or herbal medicine appearing on this site. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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