There are many types of pain that affects us in different ways at different times. Fortunately at Maitland Wellness Centre we have therapists with different skills and expertise to help you with your particular problem.
Results will depend on the many factors and variables that give rise to pain. Please give us a call to discuss your particular problem and we will be happy to advice you on what we may be able to help you with.
What is pain?
Pain is a message sent by the body to the brain signalling that disease, injury, or
strenuous activity has caused damage in some area. Without pain, you would
remain unaware of many problems, from torn ligaments to appendicitis, until the
disorders become very serious. At low levels, pain can motivate you to rest the
injured area so that tissues can be repaired and additional damage can be
prevented. When severe, pain can motivate you to seek pain relief and treatment
Modern research indicates that pain signals are transmitted by specialized nerve
cells located throughout the skin and other body tissues. These cells respond to
injury or damage by transmitting signals electrically and chemically to the spinal
cord and up to the brain where the message is interpreted as pain. The Traditional
Chinese Medical model indicates that when there is an imbalance between Yin and
Yang, or an excess or deficiency of energy or blood, the systems of the body
cannot function correctly, and disease and pain result.
Where does pain come from?
Pain can arise from a number of different causes, including overuse injuries seen in
sports, repetitive strain, or even postural compensation for skeletal disorders.
Commonly we associate pain with an obvious trauma or injury we have
experienced, but pain can also stem from a long term weakness of tissues that we
have learned to deal with or ignore, until a seemingly simple action or activity
creates a pain ‘out of nowhere’.
When there is an injury or disorder of soft tissues such as tendons, muscles and
ligaments, or structural tissues such as bones and cartilage, the body’s response is
generally inflammation, degeneration, and the development of trigger points.
- Inflammation is the initial response to tissue damage, and is the process of
blood rushing to the affected area to protect and heal the injury. This results
in the redness, heat, swelling, and loss of function that we see when we have
injured ourselves. Damage or pressure to nerve endings in and around the
area triggers signals to the brain so that we feel all of this as pain, to make
us stop or avert from the cause of the injury.
- When the initial response to an injury settles down, depending
on the nature of the injury and the general health of the individual, the
damaged tissue begins to repair. A full recovery is ideal, but in some cases,
there will be scarring, degeneration of the tissues, or chronic inflammation,
which can lead to a persistent or recurring pain.
- Trigger points (also known as ‘ah shi’ points in TCM) are areas that are very
tender to touch and are often located in predictable muscular or myofascial
locations. They can be activated through trauma or sustained tension (for
example, poor posture) and can produce pain even when there is no obvious
associated tissue damage or inflammation.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), correct and pain free functioning of the
body relies on the proper circulation of qi (energy) and blood as they flow through
channels or meridians in a network. When there is a disruption of healthy
circulation of qi and blood from injury, illness, or even weakness, the resulting
stagnation or accumulation of qi and blood leads to symptoms of pain and/or
Types of pain
Acute pain that starts suddenly or only lasts for a short time can alert us to a
problem that needs immediate attention, but in some cases pain lasts long after an
injured area has healed. In other instances, pain may be caused by recurring
backache, migraines and other headaches, arthritis and other disorders. This is
referred to as chronic pain, – which is defined as pain that occurs continually or
intermittently for more than six months.
Pain and Emotions or Dealing with Chronic pain.
Chinese medicine has long recognized the effect of emotions on the creation
and perpetuation of pain. For some people, pain is cyclical. Pain produces anxiety
or depression, and this intensifies the pain. Fear and anticipation of the physical
problem can also heighten the pain, leading to further feelings of depression and
helplessness. When experiencing such pain, it is natural to limit ones activities,
this can lead to a chronic pain cycle.
The chronic pain cycle may begin with prolonged periods
of rest and inactivity, causing a loss in physical strength, endurance and flexibility.
Inability to perform usual activities at home or at work is likely to promote feelings
of frustration and lowered self-esteem. During times when the pain subsides or is
more tolerable than usual, you may overexert yourself in an effort to prove to
yourself and others that you can still do the things you did before the chronic pain
began. As a result of overexertion, the pain often returns and may be more severe
than before. You may find yourself unable to finish tasks or accomplish goals.
Discouraged and in pain, you begin limiting your activities, and the cycle begins
One way to keep from getting caught up in the chronic pain cycle is through pain
management and treatments such as acupuncture and massage. Often the reduction
of physical pain can prevent the cycle from starting.
How can acupuncture help my pain?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture improves the body’s functions and promotes the natural self-healing
process by stimulating specific anatomic sites commonly referred to as
acupuncture points. The most common method used to stimulate these points is the
insertion of fine, sterile needles into the skin. Pressure, heat, or electrical
stimulation may further enhance the effects. Other stimulation techniques include:
manual massage, moxibustion or heat therapy, cupping, and the application of
topical herbal medicines and liniments.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on a philosophy that describes the body in
terms of two opposing forces: yin and yang. When these forces are in balance, the
body is healthy. Energy, called “qi” (pronounced “chee”) flows along specific
pathways, called meridians, throughout the body. This constant flow of energy
keeps the yin and yang forces balanced. However, if the flow of energy gets
blocked, like water getting stuck behind a dam, the disruption can lead to pain, lack
of function, or illness. Acupuncture therapy can release blocked qi in the body and
stimulate function, evoking the body’s natural healing response through various
The Tissues of the Body
Conditions that present with painful joints which in Western diagnosis can include
arthritis, rheumatic fever, and gout are commonly known in Chinese Medicine as
Bi (pronounced ) Syndromes. Bi is an obstruction of both Qi and Blood
flow in the joint and surrounding tissues. Chinese Medicine describes four
pathogenic factors that can obstruct Qi and Blood in terms of climatic elements –
Wind, Cold, Heat, and Damp.
Pain created by Wind (Wandering Bi) attack can appear and disappear suddenly.
The upper part of the body is typically affected first and then pain tends to move
about from one area to another or varies in intensity. This is often seen in
rheumatic disease, or conditions that have symptoms of tremor or convulsions.
The symptoms of Cold (Painful Bi) are usually fixed in one location, often the
joints but also muscles, and tend to be better for applying warmth, such as a heat
pack or a hot shower. Symptoms may also include a feeling of coldness in the
affected area, stiffness and a deep pain. These symptoms are often described in
conditions involving osteoarthritis.
Heat (Febrile Bi) creates the symptoms of burning, redness, and palpable heat that
are often felt in inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, infectious
arthritis, or an auto-immune process. It is usually seen as a response of the body to
an invading pathogen and may be accompanied by fever and thirst.
The symptom created in a Damp (Fixed Bi) condition is described as a sense of
heaviness, dull aching, or numbness. It may cover a large area of the body and the
pain doesn’t seem to move. There may also be swelling and retention of fluids in
the body and affected area, and will often be worse for cloudy and wet weather.
Typically, a painful condition can be a combination of these factors, for example,
Wind-Cold, which creates a sensation of pain and stiffness that is felt in the neck
and shoulders, often alleviated by a hot shower or a heat pack and staying away
from air conditioners and fans.
Muscular strains and tears
Muscle, tendons and connective tissue known as fascia attach to bone structures
and contract and expand enabling joints to move. The skeletal muscular system
makes up over 40% of our body, so when someone says that pain is ‘just muscular’
it can actually be quite significant.
A strain, which is a tearing of muscle fibers, can occur through obvious trauma
such as a fall or sporting injury, or through overuse or repetitive movement.
Strains can be mild to severe, and the pain and loss of mobility can also range.
Trigger points in myofascial tissue can also form through overuse, trauma or cold,
and if not treated quickly can become chronic and create changes in the muscular
In the Chinese Medicine framework, muscular pain is as a result of obstruction of
Qi and Blood. This obstruction can be from trauma, an invasion of pathogenic
factors such as Wind, Cold, Damp and Heat, or from an internal weakness that
places the body out of balance and unable to maintain flow of Qi or Blood.
Treatment in TCM consists of improving the balance and flow of the individuals’
energy, removing the external pathogen and enhancing the body to heal correctly.