Occurrence of Pain (Treatment of Pain with Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture)

According to TCM, pain occurs when there is stagnation of Qi and Blood, or deficiency of Qi and Blood, resulting from the various kinds of causative factors discussed earlier in the topic. However, its occurrence also reflects the fight between the body’s Wei Qi, or Defense Qi, and the pathogenic Qi. When pain occurs and develops this indicates that the person’s Defensive Qi is relative weak, or that the pathogenic factors are particularly strong. However, if pain resolves spontaneously or after the proper treatment this indicates that the Defensive Qi is stronger than the pathogenic Qi, and the proper circulation of Qi and Blood has been restored. In a word, whether pain occurs, and its time-course, relies on the state of Defensive Qi.

Generally speaking, the state of the body’s Defensive Qi is determined by factors such as the person’s constitution, emotional state, living environment, the diet and the amount any type of physical exercise undertaken, amongst other things.


The constitution is composed of two basic elements: the congenital and the postnatal con ions.

Congenital condition

The congenital condition is closely related to the condition of the parents. People may inherit both positive and negative constitutions. The congenital condition may greatly influence the reaction of the body to pain in later life. TCM places some importance on the conditions of the parents immediately before pregnancy. In general, they should ensure they are in their best physical health and a good emotional state while preparing for pregnancy. They are advised to complete copulation when both partners are in orgasm, and conversely to try to avoid the woman getting pregnant when under stress or during physical sickness. This important advice is widely given at present in China because of the one-child policy. For young couples who want a pregnancy, a general physical check-up is carried out so as to try to get as healthy a baby as possible.

The situation during the pregnancy is also of importance. During this time, the woman should have abundant sleep, avoid stress and extreme emotional disturbance, quit smoking and other bad habits, avoid as far as possible taking any medical drugs, and have a sufficient intake of nutritious food, accompanied by a certain amount of physical exercise. All these steps are necessary to maintain good health so as to ensure the child has a good constitution.

Postnatal condition

The postnatal condition is also an important factor in the overall constitution; according to TCM theory this is because the Congenital Essence (or Tre-Heaven Essence’) is nourished constantly by the Postnatal Essence (or ‘Post-Heaven Essence’). If people do not take proper care of their health, the Postnatal Essence becomes deficient and the constitution will also become impaired. Excessive sex is one of the most common causes for weakness of the Kidney-Essence. It is true that a moderate amount of sex can also stimulate the production of Kidney-Essence, relieve pent-up emotions and smooth the Qi and Blood circulation. However, excessive sex may quickly exhaust the Qi and Blood, especially Kidney-Essence. As a consequence, the bone and Marrow receive no nourishment, the low back is not properly supported, and lower back pain follows.

In fact, Deficiency of Kidney-Essence can be caused not only by excessive sex, but also by the natural decline of Kidney-Essence with age. According to TCM, after middle age, which is around 45 years old, the Kidney-Essence start to decline, the body resistance becomes weaker, and thus pathogenic factors may more easily invade the body. That is why more older people tend to suffer from pain than do young people.

Emotional state

A person’s emotional state constantly influences the activity of Qi and Blood as well as physiology of the Zang-Fu organs; in fact it may directly affect the state of the Upright Qi (Zheng Qi). If the person’s emotions are well-balanced, the physiological function of the Zang-Fu organs will be harmonious, the Qi and Blood flow freely without any blockage, and Defensive Qi will be abundant. The physical condition as a whole will prevent pathogenic factors invading, and diseases will not be able to take hold. However, if there is emotional disturbance, and especially if this is of long duration, the result will be disharmony of the Zang-Fu organs, blockage of the Qi and Blood circulation and a weakening of Defensive Qi, and this will predispose the person to invasion of pathogenic factors and occurrence of disease.

Living conditions

The person’s environment is also related to the occurrence of disease. For instance, moving around to different areas with different climates, water, food and drink may induce changes in physiological functions. Normally people can adapt to the new environment without harm to their health, but if there is a too-sudden change of living area this can cause weakness of the body, and illness as a consequence.

The living environment also includes good lifestyle habits, such as regularity in everyday activities, as this also influences the condition of Defensive Qi. In present-day society this could be one of the most important causative factors in illness.


A proper diet is the correct and sufficient intake of nutrients. It doesn’t mean that the more you eat the better. Irregular eating, or overeating of certain kinds of food, or eating too little, all directly impede the function of Spleen and Stomach in digesting, transporting and transforming the food. As a consequence the Qi, Blood and Body Fluids will become deficient, which will in turn decrease the amount of Defensive Qi, and illness may follow.

Physical exercises

There is a Chinese saying that the life comes from constant moving. Here ‘moving’ refers to active participation in physical exercises to improve the constitution and keep the circulation of Qi and Blood smooth, so as to increase the ability of the body to resist disease. Sport, and exercises such as Qigong, Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), and Wushu are good physical exercises that have been practised by Chinese people for thousands of years. In China it is common to see both old and young people, in groups or alone practising exercises in the early morning or in the evening. Such activity is especially good for retired people. Many retired people in the West stop most of their physical activities after retirement, and that is why so many old people suffer from a slow digestion after sitting or resting for a long time; their digestion would be improved if they increased their amount of physical movement.

In summary, the TCM viewpoint is that pain occurs when there is disorder of Yin and Yang, disharmony of Qi and Blood and dysfunction of the Zang-Fu organs, as a result of various kinds of pathogenic factors.

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