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Back pain and sciatica can be very different experiences, but they are related in some ways to a Chinese medicine practitioner. Both result from one common issue – a lack of flow. A common saying in Chinese medicine says, “With movement, there is no pain. With pain, there is no movement.” When there is a blockage or stagnant flow of blood, fluids, or energy (qi), pain will occur. Stagnation and lack of flow is present in all cases of pain, but the source of this stagnation varies.
Yin or Yang:
Yang: hot, inflamed, sharp or burning pain
Yin: cold, dull aching or severe pain
Qi and Blood:
Qi: When qi stops flowing properly through the back or legs, pain can occur. This lack of flow can be structural, such as with knots in muscles, herniated discs, lumbar stenosis, or other anatomical changes in the structure of the body. It can also be energetic. The flow of qi through the acupuncture channels gets blocked, stuck, or deficient, resulting in pain and weakness.
Blood: Poor blood flow acts similarly to poor qi flow, and this lack of circulation can also cause pain and achiness in the back, hips, and down the legs.
Urinary Bladder: The Urinary Bladder channel traverse the entire back, making it a key target when using treatments like acupuncture or massage. While this system is also considered in Chinese herbal medicine, more focus is placed on the root of the pain, which tends to stem from other organ systems.
Gallbladder: The Gallbladder is the main channel involved in sciatic pain that travels down the sides of the legs, or pain that moves around.
Kidney: The Kidney controls the area of the low back and is often involved in any back pain. Even in cases where the pain began due to an injury or accident, the Kidney will be affected. Because of this, Chinese medicine always considers the health of Kidney system when treating low back pain.
Chinese medicine attacks back pain and sciatica in many ways. Acupuncture is well-known to help improve these conditions and can be used in conjunction with herbal medicine. Tui na, or Chinese medical massage, is also helpful for reducing pain and healing the muscles and joints. For at-home healing, many practitioners recommend Qigong or Tai Chi to help strengthen the back and legs while encouraging pain-relieving free flow.
Both internal and topical herbal formulas are excellent for reducing back pain and sciatica. The internal formulas tend to focus on strengthening the body and addressing the root cause of the back pain. Topical oils and patches are excellent for stopping pain and allowing for easier movement and restful sleep.
The following are important herbs used in back pain and sciatica formulas.
Du Huo/Angelica pubescentis: Du huo is a powerful herb for strengthening the Kidney system and relieving achy back pain. This herb is found in formulas suited for back pain or sciatica from overuse or aging.
Du Zhong/Eucommia: Du Zhong is another herb that’s often found in backache or sciatica formulas. This herb strengthens and supports, while also clearing inflammation and easing pain.
Dang gui: Along with the herbs above, many other pain-relieving and circulation-enhancing herbs are used in common formulas. But one herb is special: dang gui. This herb is commonly added to pain formulas not because it reduces pain, but because it has a strong effect on improving circulation and nourishing the blood (which goes on to heal the damaged muscles and joints).
Take back control and live pain free – the natural way. Shop our collection of Chinese herbal formulas dedicated to healing back pain and sciatica.