July 2010

Acupuncture and Die Da Jiu (Hit Fall Wine)

Acupuncture and Die Da Jiu (Hit Fall Wine) I'd like to talk a little about the remarkable effects of acupuncture and herbal liniments in treating chronic and acute injuries. For an injury to heal it must have an ample supply of qi (life energy) and blood. Since acupuncture and herbal liniments are very good at promoting qi and blood flow, they excel at treating sports injuries. Herbal liniments (die da jiu) traditionally used for martial arts injuries, were often kept secret within family lineages. These formulas are the number one remedy for bruises, contusions, strains, and sprains and generally contain herbs that stop pain, reduce inflammation, and break up local stagnation of qi and blood.

It is not uncommon for me to treat patients suffering from unresolved, several year old injuries. Even after going through conventional channels of physical therapy and cortisone shots, the pain and stiffness linger on. It's as if the body has given up trying to heal, and just accepted this as being normal. For these patients, my acupuncture treatments restore hope and offer a long overdue resolution to the problem.

The reason injuries refuse to heal is because there is not an ample blood supply to the area, or the circulation of qi and blood have become chronically impaired due to improper treatment or the patient's state of health. The injured area somehow becomes "dead" even though modern diagnostic testing may be unable to find any abnormality. Acupuncture stimulation serves to "wake up" the injured area and sends a signal to the brain to reengage the healing process. Herbal liniments reinforce this effect and can be applied frequently in between acupuncture treatments. In some cases it may also be advised to take special formulas internally that can break up the "dead" blood. It is also thought that an improperly treated injury can eventually lead to stagnation deeper in the body that may even negatively affect the functioning of the internal organs. (I'll leave that topic for a future post.)

Beware of Ice
In the first stage of an injury, people are always advised to use ice to abate the swelling, but this is frowned upon by the wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine. Although the ice will effectively reduce swelling and relieve pain, cold causes stagnation and will tend to slow down the healing process. If no other alternative is available, it is best to apply ice during the first 48 hrs, and discontinue it's use after the initial swelling and inflammation have subsided. If ice is applied to an injury long term, it will no doubt be detrimental instead of beneficial. Constant application of ice for pain relief may lead to the several year old injury that fails to heal, or even arthritis eventually. Interestingly, icy drinks and cold/raw foods may also delay healing and should be avoided while recovering from an injury.

A cooling herbal powder or liniment is superior to ice because it reduces the swelling without causing stagnation. One commonly used herbal powder for stage 1 injuries consists of cooling herbs like, rhubarb and dandelion combined with blood movers life safflower and peach kernal. The herbs are crushed into a powder and mixed with egg white or green tea to form a plaster. A similar functioning plaster can be made by simply grounding red bean (azuki bean) into a powder (with a coffer grinder) and mixing it with egg white. Once any broken bones or fractures have been ruled out, the best approach for treating a recent injury in my opinion is through acupuncture along with alternating use of ice and a cooling liniment. After the first week treatment should be modified to also include warming therapies and medicinals.

Trivia: Myrrh and frankincense have long history for treating injuries in Chinese medicine because of their ability to resolve pain and break up stagnation. Many of the herbal liniments I use in my clinic contain this combination. Interestingly, these are the holy herbs brought to the baby Jesus by the Wise Men of the east. Aside their religious use as incense, it's possible that these herbs were intended for use by the Virgin Mary, since they also relieve postpartum abdominal pain caused by blood stagnation.

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