26 September, 2017 Consultant Physician Lim Xiang Jun

The Two Main Causes of Pain & How to Manage Them

Pain is widely defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage”. In medical diagnosis, pain is regarded as a symptom of an underlying condition. Pain can speak volumes, it can tell what is going on inside your body and what is wrong so we can fix it. However, modern medicine often manages pain differently, it seeks to eliminate or mask the pain but not the problem.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a simple yet profound statement sums up the very essence of Chinese medical view of pain:



This means that as long as qi and blood flow smoothly, there will not be a pain. If the qi and blood flow are hindered, obstructed or insufficient, there will be a pain. In TCM, pain is nothing other than the felt experience of lack of free flow of qi and blood.

The Two Main Causes of Pain

1.Hindrance Of Qi And Blood Flow


Something hindering, blocking or obstructing the smooth and uninhibited flow of qi and blood through the channels and vessels.
Lack of free flow is likened to a plug of hair in a drain pipe, physically obstructing the pipe and causing the water to not being able to flow freely.


  • Micro blood stagnation due to inflammation/injury (E.g. sprains, strains, inflammatory internal diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, gastritis etc).
  • Long term exposure to coldness or taking cold food.
  • Dehydration causing blood to thicken and higher chances of forming micro blood stagnation.

2.Insufficient Qi And Blood


Insufficient qi and blood to maintain the smooth free flow of qi and blood themselves.
This is likened to the water in the pipe losing energy and freezing, hence slowing down its flow or that there is insufficient water to flow along the pipe.


  • Poor organ functions leading to insufficient qi and blood being produced.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Lack of sleep.

This flow of qi and blood can become inhibited in any and every area of the body: the internal organs, the muscles, the head, the back, the extremities and joints. And when that happens, pain will be experienced at those areas of qi and blood flow inhibition.


Daily Habits to Help Yourself Deal with Pain

1. Drink water and keep yourself hydrated

Drinking water will help to provide the base material needed for blood and qi, keeping a free flow and lessening the chances of them slowing down.

2. Cut down on alcohol, coffee and soft drinks

Alcohol, coffee and most soft drinks are dehydrating liquids. A cup of coffee may require up to 3 cups of water to replenish the liquid lost from the body.

3. Have ample sleep at night

Most detoxifications and nourishments of organs occur at night during sleep. Getting ample sleep will aid the flushing out of toxins and blood stagnation, and nourish the organs so that sufficient qi and blood is produced.

4. Keep warm and take more warm food

Coldness slows down blood circulation. Keeping ourselves warm in a cold environment, consuming warm food and reducing cold food and drinks can help reduce the chances of slow/hindered blood and qi flow.


How TCM Can Help You Deal with Pain

When presented a case with pain as an important symptom, the TCM physician will first diagnose the reason of the non-free flow of qi and blood before providing treatments to restore the free flow.

Some of the techniques used in TCM for Pain Management:

1. Acupuncture:  By stimulating the right acupoints, acupuncture improves blood circulation and has anti inflammatory effects. Acupuncture also helps improve organ functions which will aid in more qi/energy and blood formation to ensure the sufficiency in the flow within the body.

2.Cupping and Tuina: Cupping and Tuina are both manipulative therapies that will help dissipate areas of blockages of qi/energy and blood and regain the free flow of qi and blood to the area of pain.

3.Chinese Herbs: According to the diagnosis of the cause of pain, Chinese herbs can help in increasing the flow of qi/energy and blood or nourishment and improvement of organ functions.

Article by Consultant Physician, Dr Lim Xiang Jun


Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

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About the Author

Consultant Physician Lim Xiang Jun Dr Lim Xiang Jun is a registered TCM practitioner in Singapore since 2010. She holds a Doctorate (PhD) and Master Degree in Acupuncture and a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine (Chinese Medicine) from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. She also graduated with First-Class Honours in B.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences from Nanyang Technological University Singapore.

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