And Eastern Medicine
Went too hard in the gym? Forgot to stretch? Quarantine turned you into a couch potato? Living with achy muscles? Your body crying out in this way does not need to be the norm. Western medicine may say to pop a pill and move on with your day, but Eastern medicine has different strategies to help improve the symptoms.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been used to treat ailments over the centuries, from back pain to digestive issues and more. However, one of the most common conditions TCM helps with is aches and pains, especially in the lower back, neck, and shoulders. “Sitting is the new smoking,” and it is affecting the body. Aches and pains can be caused by any number of things – lack of rest, chronic stress, poor posture and even poor diet – but fortunately, there are many different ways to relieve them with TCM. Here are three examples to implement today.
Tiger Balm and Tui Na
One of the most recommended products for muscle soreness is Tiger Balm or similar liniments. It’s a pungent herbal oil that’s applied topically or massaged into aching muscles, and its active ingredients include menthol and camphor oils. Not only does it have two powerful ingredients but it is also packed with other essential oils that benefit pain relief. Studies have shown that these ingredients can improve pain sensations by blocking cold receptors in nerves. Despite the name, Tiger Balm is not tested on Tigers (or any animal for that matter)!
Along with using the tiger balm, you can give yourself a massage to loosen some of the deep-rooted pain in the muscles. Tui na is similar to an intense acupressure massage. This is not a relaxing massage you find at high end spa, but is manual work on the body to correct imbalances. Translating directly to “pinch and pull”, tui na is meant to relieve deep tension in the muscles. Using different movements such as stretching, pulling, rotating and placing pressure, tui na can alleviate achy muscles.
Tui na combined with Tiger Balm is the ultimate opponent for achy muscles.
Herbal remedies are a key part to eastern medicine. While a common pain relief suggestion in Western medicine is to take an over the counter synthetic remedy, there are many herbs to use in conjunction with or separated from acupuncture that can relieve tension of achy muscles. Here is a list of all herbs proven to help with pain relief:
- Ginger – can be made into a tea, or used as a powder, an extract, in capsules, and as an oil. There is some scientific evidence that ginger can relieve inflammation and thereby contribute to pain relief
- Lavender – Lavender can be added to the bath to soothe minor aches and pains in muscles and joints and the use has been studied for headaches and pain after breast cancer surgery.
- Cinnamon – A popular remedy for comfortable joints and muscles is to make a cup of tea using one teaspoon of cinnamon and teaspoon of honey
- Peppermint – contains menthol, menthone and limonene which have cooling properties and acts as a muscle relaxant, Applying diluted peppermint essential oil to the skin appears to provide nervous system support and is great in the bath.
While these may seem like ingredients in world famous teas, they are powerful herbs that can actually help to ease those achy muscles. You can research what is best for you as many herbs for pain can be taken orally or topically to alleviate muscle tension.
Cupping involves the application of glass, silicone or ceramic cups over problem areas and creates suction to restore the flow of Qi. By moving cups in a swift, steady motion, the muscles become stimulated, fascia unstuck, thus relieving some of the achy pain in the muscles. Cupping comes in all shapes and sizes, including different cup sizes, strength of suction, use of herbs such as moxa balm that aid in muscle relief, using acupressure tools and even just plain old water! There is an option for everyone depending on the condition, pain level, age, and comfortability.
While many people are skeptical of alternative medicine, cupping therapy has a solid foundation in science. Cupping is said to increase blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which helps with muscle pain. Studies have even shown that it’s effective at reducing muscle pain by up to 50 percent; don’t worry—the cupping marks last for a few days only! So if you feel like your body is stiff and sore after those grueling workouts, consider cupping as a remedy.
For a broader range of pain relief options, check out this article. If there is one thing all practitioners agree on, it’s that pain is your body’s way of expressing a more serious issue within. Drink some water, take a hot bath and refer to these ways to enhance your pain relief!