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Pain And Injury In Chinese Sports Medicine

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Both the Chinese and Western medicine way of examining a sports injury, like a strain or sprain, may on the surface seem very similar, but when they are carefully observed, they actually are quite different.

The movement of blood and vital energy (qi) in a specific part of the body may be influenced by some impact or force exerted on the body. This impact may be due to a fall and may result in a sprain or wrenching or twisting force, like of whiplash that can cause the body to stretch and snap violently back into place. Whatever the cause, the impact or force can be great enough to severely affect the body part where it occurs, as well as the distant parts.

The flow of qi, blood, and other fluids in this area may then slow down and stagnate after the impact or force, thereby interfering with circulation which leads to pain and swelling and a number of more profound consequences. One must really comprehend the relationship between qi and blood to completely understand these consequences.

The body’s life energy is called Qi which makes all body movement possible. This life energy is important as it is needed for the blood to flow in the blood vessels, and for the fluids to through tissues which are essential for digestion, respiration, hormone release and production, etc. Qi moves through an intricate network in the muscles, tendons, flesh, and skin similar to the circulatory system. It transports fluids and blood to the tissues throughout the body and nourishes and moisturizes the tissues, imparting the skin with a vitalized and shiny appearance and tendons and muscles with the capacity to move and contract uniformly and smoothly. Qi also plays a role in the way the body acclimatizes itself to modifications in temperature, managing the opening and closing of the skin pores to warm the external part of the body. The relationship between qi and blood can be basically described in this manner: qi is the captain of blood and blood is the mother of qi. This means that without the qi commanding it, blood cannot move and, to be nurtured by the blood, qi needs to rely on the organs that produce the blood.

When qi stagnates, which also stagnates the flow of fluids and blood, pain and swelling occurs more so after the body experiences trauma (an impact or force). Pain, according to the theory of Chinese sports medicine is caused by the stagnation of qi. A good analogy of qi would be like a dam, holding back blood and fluids from the other parts of the body. But as blood and fluids buildup behind the dam, it results in a swelling or lump and pain. Due to the warming action caused by the gradual build of qi, also causes the injured part to become hot or warm.

According to Chinese medicine, the desire to rub an injured body part is a natural body reaction to help restore flow by pushing the buildup of fluids, blood, and qi throughout the body, which then destroys the metaphorical dam that brings back the smooth flow of energy, fluids, and blood throughout the body which then reduces and eventually heals the pain and swelling.

The body usually is inflicted with ruptured blood vessels and/or structural damage from broken bones, torn ligaments and other more severe injuries. In cases like these, the interruption of circulation as well as the level of stagnated qi and blood is even greater, which results in a higher degree of pain, heat, and swelling. In injures which causes the blood vessels to rupture, bruising will almost certainly be visually apparent.

Blood stagnation tends to occur and accumulate between layers of tissue. It congeals there and sticks the surrounding tissues together. This is known as an adhesion and occurs when the tissues catch or stick to each other whereas normally, they should be sliding smoothly. Because adhesions tend to interfere with normal movement and functioning it can lead to pain.

The problem body part may not have as much qi if the qi, blood, and fluid that have stagnated aren’t cleared which makes normal circulation impossible. The body may need to expend a lot more energy in order to force circulation through and around the area, even after the swelling and inflammation has dissipated. Partly because of this poor circulation, the affected part can eventually feel numb, have periodic instances of swelling, and become hypersensitive to cold and damp weather. Sickness, tiredness, stress, and other elements that decrease the body’s energy, can exacerbate both existing pain and pain that has already subsided.

The injury is now considered as bi syndrome in Chinese medicine at this point. This means the injured body part has an energy blockage that has become chronic. This bi syndrome almost often affects the joints and may occasionally impact the muscles. This may be due to the fibrous dense tissues that comprise the joint capsule that can inhibit the circulation of blood and fluids to the interior capsule. Bi syndrome takes a greater time to heal because the interior layer is almost made up of cartilage which is not directly furnished with blood. This is the reason a torn knee cartilage or torn meniscus or other such conditions take a long time to recuperate.

The chronic blockage of qi or energy described above may be caused by frequent exposure of the body to dampness and cold or an already debilitated body part that’s repeatedly exposed to cold and dampness. In both cases, this exposure hinders the effort of the body to warm and protect itself.

People who have no idea of the relationship between qi and blood and their interactions during injury are usually dismissive of the aforementioned explanation deeming them nonsense and unscientific, even though it completely answers this question, “Why do some injuries, like fractures and sprains generate more pain in damp or cold environments?” Unfortunately, most people only know how to counter these problems with prescription strength or over-the-counter pain medications which do not cure the pain especially when the weather changes.

To properly heal, the injured tissue needs to regenerate. This takes place in the damaged tissue as it’s replaced with healthy normally functioning tissue. However, if normal circulation is not restored in order for sufficient amount of nutrients and energy to reach the injured area, this will never occur. If the injury reoccurs and you suffer from chronic inflammation, thick fibrous tissue or scar may then replace the growth of normal tissue in the injured area. Chronic inflammation may cause the unnatural buildup of calcium in the tendons, joints, and muscles, which only exacerbates the inflammation. Hence, you can see how the injured areas can be caught in this cycle of injury, stagnation, pain inflammation, re-injury, and so on and so forth.

Minor bruises and sprains are usually dismissed as things that tend to heal minus intervention. Still, it’s easy to deduce the extreme importance of addressing even the most insignificant injury immediately, by merely observing how an acute injury can develop into a chronic injury. That is, if you prefer to avoid chronic blockage, stop the reoccurrence of injury, and go back and enjoy sports or your regular activities.

Western medicine has still been unable to answer why with just a little rest, injures can significantly subside and heal, while other injuries even with rest tend to turn into chronic problems? To answer this question, one needs to factor in the existence and of qi in the body which in Western medicine is not accepted.

While the word qi or vital energy is not used in Western medicine, people in Western societies usually pertain to some people as being resistant or more resilient to disease or having the “will to live”. The concept is somewhat similar to qi’s effect on people. It’s usually the case that when a similar treatment is applied to people for the similar illness, the results are almost often not exactly the same. The reason for this is that each person has varying levels of qi, which tend to bring about different treatment outcomes. People with different levels of qi or vital energy don’t recover at the same rate.

It is often difficult for people with very bad injuries who have suffered significant structural damage to have their functionality restored. Injuries that are difficult to heal or simply won’t heal are often that way because the qi is impaired. This impairment can be due to several possible causes, but most of the time, it is caused by stress. Besides reducing or avoiding stress, it’s essential to get fresh air and rest and eat a healthy diet in order for the body to concentrate its vast reservoir of resources towards healing.

Our modern way of life has forced us to live with little rest and more play and work. This is true, even in injury, in which after an illness, surgery, or injury we are forced to go back to work ASAP due to employer pressure, or out of monetary necessity. After an injury, a lot of people also tend to have an urge to go back to a previously personal stressful lifestyle immediately, even if their bodies aren’t yet strong enough to handle the stress. We also need to factor in the effect of an unhealthy diet (usually the result of eating junk, GMO, and processed foods). Most of us do not go out enough to breathe in fresh air. These factors deplete the body and starve it off the resources and nutrients it requires to repair an injured area.

Unfortunately, one very important element in healing is age. Young people have an abundant amount of life energy and you can see this by the constant running, jumping and playing of young children. In certain ways, children are more delicate than adults; however, the usually recover and heal much faster from an injury. And since their bones and muscles are still very flexible, they also are less prone to injury. Even with the aforementioned stressors, the abundant life energy of young people will help them recover much faster.

Most of us understand why returning to sport or a certain activity the soonest time possible is important. But in today’s society, it is rare to get the time needed to allow our bodies to heal. Most people attempt to continue wherever it is they were doing as soon as the pain abates. But, just because the pain has somewhat subsided, won’t mean your sprained ankle is 100 or even 50 percent ready. Overstretched or torn ligaments in a sprained ankle should tell you to slow down and give time for them to return to full or normal functionality. Movement increases when the swelling and pain is reduced. Walking without limping without any help should be the next step. Afterwards, you can do some strengthening and flexibility exercises, adding the intensity little by little. Always make it a point to continue therapy and rehabilitation until pain is gone during regular or sport activities. Talk to a medical doctor or your healthcare if the pain persists.

Complementary Healthcare
1000 Valley Forge Cir #105
King of Prussia, PA 19406
(484) 392-7023

Written by Valerie

February 20th, 2018 at 10:15 pm