Today I wish to write about the secret ingredient to pain relief: flow. The definition of flow is “to move in a stream”. Our body is the very essence of a stream – blood and lymphatic fluid move through channels in large bodies of water when in our trunk (think aorta and vena cava) – then trickle outwards to our extremities into bubbling springs and smaller creeks (think capillaries, and smaller veins and arteries). For thousands of years, Chinese Medicine has been making the link between the human body and how we show similarities to bodies of water. We are, after all, mostly made up of water.
There are many things that inhibit our inner flow – but to depict this, let’s examine some antonyms of flow: clot, coagulate, congeal, gel, harden. In Chinese Medicine, these words describe very accurately a condition called Blood Stasis and Qi Stagnation. Blood stasis, therefore, IS the antonym to flow.
There is a TCM quote that says, “Where there is blockage, there is pain.” Blood stasis and Qi stagnation are the most common causes of blockage in the body. Hence, by removing the blockage, pain can no longer reside.
How does one develop a condition of Blood Stasis? Life events such as acute trauma where there is direct damage to bones and tissues is one obvious cause. Sitting too much, eating greasy cold foods, excessive icing, overuse, exposure to weather, and the Seven Emotions are important factors as well.
In the case of excessive sitting, not only are the blood vessels in the glutes and hamstrings compressed, but there is a systemic flow that is lacking. Sitting is a vicious cycle, because the more pain someone is in, the greater desire they have to sit or lie down. Unfortunately, this only aggravates blood stasis.
Diet is another aspect that can lead to blood stasis. Cold foods cause vasoconstriction: which means a narrowing of the blood vessels. If the patient who consumes a lot of cold food also eats copious greasy foods (which produces phlegm in the body) – now this person has narrowed vessels that are trying to pump through gooey blood. (yes, “gooey” is a technical term)
While on the topic of vasoconstriction, I’d like to say a few words about icing. Icing causes rapid and pronounced narrowing of the blood vessels. Therefore, placing ice on a muscle group repeatedly will eventually lead to blood stasis. Muscles depend on blood flow to heal, so continuously inhibiting this need causes detrimental effects. There are many patients who have experienced pain relief immediately just from the suggestion of avoiding icing.
A chronic cause of Blood Stasis that should receive more attention is the Seven Emotions. In Chinese Medicine, it is said that the Seven Emotions are the ONLY cause of internal disease. This is a very powerful statement, because it unlocks the secret to a full recovery from chronic pain. Emotions makes a person want to sit and eat more; they feel hopeless, and lost. This can lead to blood stasis quite quickly because strong emotions, mingled with the lifestyle that the emotions produce, compounds the situation.
Each of the Seven Emotions has an energetic property. For example, Anger creates heat in the body, which causes energy to surge upwards to the head. Patients with Anger often complain of headaches. Quite literally, in this case, the Anger has made its residence in the tissues of the patient’s head. This is why, as we start to release the tissues, the patient may temporarily experience more Anger. Eventually, if the Anger continues, the heat will burn up body fluid, and then there is not enough blood to create flow – which causes the small amount of blood that does remain in the tissue to stay trapped there.
Anger is just one example of how the Seven Emotions effect the body, but each emotion leads to stagnancy via its own unique pathomechanism.
Overusing the body through overwork or repetitive movements during exercise is an extremely common cause of blood stasis. Think of muscles like a pump – they rely on the relaxation as much as contraction. It is during the relaxation phase of muscular contraction that the tissues fill with blood and nourish the tissues. If a person is locked in the same position all day through exercise of work, fresh blood is unable to enter the tissues – and the blood that is already in the muscle becomes stagnant. After years of this cycle, the patient will inevitably develop chronic pain.
To conclude, there are many causes of chronic pain and blood stasis. Unleash the antidote and create more flow in your life. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help regain body flow, in conjunction with personalized Chinese herbal formulations. Book your appointment today and put some flow back in your life. Everyone needs a catalyst – then once things are flowing, nothing will stop you from living a healthy pain free life.
Yours in health,