Guest post by Kristin Misik
Maybe it happened all at once. Or possibly it developed over time. You don’t remember exactly when the pain and stiffness began to settle into the muscles and joints, but you recognize it as a constant companion. Hardly a day goes by when you aren’t aware of your body feeling less than. Maybe it’s just a creaky knee, or a stiff back and neck. You chalk it up to getting older.
Regardless of age, there is only one cause for pain. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is said, “with no free flow, there is pain. If there is pain, there is stagnation”. So what causes stagnation?
Chinese Medicine can be very nuanced, let’s use a visual example to convey an abstract concept.
Imagine a river bed. In the springtime, the waters are rushing to the sea. Movement of water through the banks of the river is quick and fluid. And then the heat of summer cranks up and water begins to evaporate. Without new rainfall, the river eventually disappears. Perhaps the river is nothing more than a creek, all that remains is a slow trickle and some murky lifeless puddles. The earth at the water’s edge becomes dry and cracked.
Your muscles and joints are the river bed. Your blood is the water. Time has the nasty habit of drying out the body’s nourishing fluids: blood, synovial, spinal, mucosal, menstrual, etc. If you spend a good majority of your waking hours afixed to a seat, you inhibit the movement of fluid and fail to nourish your muscles and joints. The flow of blood is diminished and the end result is stagnation.
TCM is certainly logical, but not necessarily simplistic. Keep in mind, there are multiple causes for stagnation and the resulting pain. In one case, you may have the diagnosis of blood stagnation, in another it may simply be qi stagnation. Qi is defined as the energetic life force within all living things. In terms of severity, qi stagnation is less severe than blood stasis, but you need not worry about figuring out which category you fall into. Find an acupuncturist to make the differentiation for you.
Here is what you can do help manage and prevent chronic pain:
1) Stretch your body every day. If you find yourself pressed for time, all you need are a few minutes here and there to achieve a positive outcome. Set an alarm on your desktop for once an hour to take a 1-2 minutes to stretch. If you are in the habit of exercise, awesome. Just get into the habit of stretching too.
2). Strengthen your muscles a few times a week. Strong muscles support your joints, improve posture and help bone density.
3). Eat loads of antioxidants. Antioxidants are found in the bioflavinoids of fruits and vegetables. Bioflavinoids are what give carrots their lush orange color and beets their rich purple color. Antioxidants are essential to reducing chronic inflammation which can cause pain and stiffness.
4) Get regular body work. Massage and Rolfing work by mechanically pushing blood into tissue which has become essentially dry. Acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s qi to move blood into tissue and push inflammation out. If you aren’t in the habit of getting regular body work, it is wise to start now. Just keep in mind, you wouldn’t neglect to get the oil changed on your car, so don’t neglect getting work done on your body.
Kristin Misik practices acupuncture in New York City, treating pain related conditions, chronic disease, fertility issues and stress. To schedule an appointment with Kristin, check out her website and definitely sign up to get her weekly dose of wisdom while you’re there!