Everyone knows what pain feels like — the throbbing ache from a bruise, the sting from a cut or a tightness from a cramp. While some of these could be severe, especially after a major surgery or trauma, these pains are short-lived and usually ease with time and healing. However, if a pain lasts for more than three months, it is considered a chronic condition and should not be ignored.
Common causes of chronic pain
Understanding how chronic pain comes about and finding solutions to mitigate the aggravating factors go a long way in managing it.
Chronic pain can be due to:
- Repetitive strain from over-usage of muscles. Such injuries can be sustained from work or while performing daily activities including doing household chores, e.g., cooking or cleaning the floor. These can result in issues such as tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger and “Mother’s thumb”.
- Poor posture and sedentary lifestyles. Prolonged periods of sitting in bad postures strain the muscles in the back, neck and wrist, while the disuse of our muscles due a lack of exercise can lead to a deterioration of many bodily functions and result in back pain and other illnesses.
- Qi and blood stagnation. From a traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the flow of Qi, or the life force energy, and blood through the meridian network in the body, nourishes body tissues and ensures optimal body functioning. However, when a meridian point is blocked due to an injury or coldness, the affected area will not be able to receive enough blood and nutrients, which causes pain, stiffness and numbness.
- Poor diet. From a TCM point of view, diet and nutrition are important factors that could cause pain. A malnourished body has weaker muscles that are less resilient and more susceptible to fatigue and injury. On the other hand, a well-balanced diet is essential in strengthening the body’s digestive function as well as vital for the circulation of Qi and blood.
Tips you can try at home to relieve chronic pain
Credits: photo courtesy of Oriental Remedies Group
While painkillers, anti-inflammatory medicine and pain relief plasters can help alleviate the discomfort, chronic pain, especially those in the back, are usually more complicated and will require professional treatment to loosen knotted tissues and correct spinal misalignment for proper healing to occur.
TCM is an effective, gentle and natural approach to manage pain. In-clinic treatments like cupping therapy, acupuncture, as well as tech-enhanced therapies like Electro-Lymphatic Therapy (ELT), a gentle procedure that feels like a deep tissue massage but is eight to ten times more effective than conventional massages, are non-invasive and can be used alongside other mainstream treatments.
In the meantime, here are some TCM tips you can try at home to relieve your chronic pain:
- DIY acupressure massage
If the pain is in your shoulders, you can massage these acupoints on your shoulders: the Jian Jing, located at the mid-point between your neck and the tip of your shoulders, and the Jian Wai Shu, found four fingers away from your spine. Apply firm, deep pressure, pinching the acupoints between your thumb and middle finger, then transferring the pressure to your index finger before slowly releasing the pinch. Do this for 15 mins.
You can also massage the Wai Guan, an acupoint that is found approximately three fingers from the base of your wrist. Apply firm pressure using your thumb, massaging the Wai Guan in a circular motion for 15 mins.
If the pain is in your lower back, you can massage the Yao Tong Dian, acupoints found on the back of your hands at the mid-way points between the wrist and knuckle. The first of the Yao Tong Dian is located between the bones of your second and third fingers, while the second acupoint is found between the bones of your fourth and fifth fingers. Apply gentle pressure using your thumb, massaging in a circular or up-and-down motion for about three minutes.
- Herbal remedies
Certain herbs help promote blood circulation, nourish joints and facilitate the flow of Qi. For example, corydalis is used for treating traumatic injuries and helps relieve many types of pain, including chest and gastric pain as well as painful menstrual cramps. Corydalis can be added into a basic bone broth for an added health boost.
- Lifestyle changes
Simple changes to your lifestyles can help improve your body constitution. For example, avoid blowing wind from the fan or air conditioner directly on you. If you cramp easily, avoid cold drinks and foods such as ice-cream, certain vegetables (e.g., bitter gourds and Chinese cabbage) and fruits (e.g., watermelon).
Remember to stay active and sleep early. Swimming is great exercise to strengthen your back muscles which does not hurt your joints.
Chronic pain can be debilitating and without proper treatment, may worsen and dampen your quality of life. However, you need not suffer alone. While it is important to address any pain in your body promptly and appropriately, an integrative approach to healthcare combining TCM and medical technology can manage pain more effectively and with faster results.
Oriental Remedies Group (ORG), a leading patient-centred integrated TCM healthcare provider, has recently opened its flagship clinic at Thomson to provide patients with chronic conditions living in Central Singapore better access to its services.