Intercostal neuralgia according to Chinese Medicine

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Intercostal neuralgia factsheet

In Chinese Medicine, intercostal neuralgia can be associated with five so-called "patterns of disharmony". Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted. It is not equivalent to the Western concept of "disease", as a matter of fact here intercostal neuralgia can be caused by five different patterns.

To understand whether someone's intercostal neuralgia might be caused by a given pattern, one needs to look for signs and symptoms associated with the pattern beyond what one might typically experience from intercostal neuralgia alone. For instance when intercostal neuralgia is caused by the pattern Liver Qi Stagnation, patients also experience symptoms such as flank pain, stifling sensation in the chest causing one to have deep sighs, suppressed emotions and feelings of frustration. Similarly, patients with Liver Qi Stagnation typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses.

We've listed below a description of the five patterns associated with intercostal neuralgia so that you can start to get an understanding of the various possibilities according to Chinese Medicine.

Once identified, patterns are often treated using herbal formulas. Drinking herbal infusions is the most common remedy in Chinese Medicine, together with acupuncture. Here we detail below four formulas that can help treat the various patterns associated with intercostal neuralgia, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The five "patterns of disharmony" associated with intercostal neuralgia

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Liver Qi Stagnation

Intercostal neuralgia might be due to Liver Qi Stagnation if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as flank pain, stifling sensation in the chest causing one to have deep sighs, suppressed emotions and feelings of frustration. Similarly, patients with Liver Qi Stagnation typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses.

Read more about Liver Qi Stagnation here

Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu) is the key herb for Yue Ju Wan, a formula used for Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

Recommended herbal formula: Yue Ju Wan

Symptoms: Belching Vomiting Acid reflux Indigestion Poor appetite Fixed pain in the hypochondria Mild coughing with copious sputum Stifling sensation in the chest and abdomen

Intercostal neuralgia might be due to Qi Stagnation if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as stifling sensation in the chest and abdomen, fixed pain in the hypochondria, belching and vomiting. Similarly, patients with Qi Stagnation typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a normal (light red) tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Qi Stagnation here

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Tight (Jin)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Symptoms: Coughing Dizziness Headaches Depression Moving pain Listlessness Hypochondrium fullness

Intercostal neuralgia might be due to Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as coughing, hypochondrium fullness, dizziness and headaches. Similarly, patients with Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation typically exhibit empty (Xu) or tight (Jin) pulses as well as a normal (light red), pale tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation here

The Pericardium is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Pericardium in Chinese Medicine

Pericardium Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Knotted (Jie), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple

Recommended herbal formula: Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Symptoms: Chest pain Purple lips Palpitations Purple nails Painful period Hypochondriac pain Shortness of breath Dark clots in menstrual blood Feeling of oppression of the chest

Intercostal neuralgia might be due to Pericardium Blood Stagnation if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as chest pain, hypochondriac pain, palpitations and painful period. Similarly, patients with Pericardium Blood Stagnation typically exhibit knotted (Jie) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a bluish-purple tongue.

Read more about Pericardium Blood Stagnation here

The Stomach is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Stomach in Chinese Medicine

Stomach Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple

Recommended herbal formula: Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Symptoms: Nausea Vomiting Epigastric pain Vomiting of blood

Intercostal neuralgia might be due to Stomach Blood Stagnation if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as epigastric pain, nausea, vomiting and vomiting of blood. Similarly, patients with Stomach Blood Stagnation typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a bluish-purple tongue.

Read more about Stomach Blood Stagnation here

The four herbal formulas that might help with intercostal neuralgia

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Why might Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang help with intercostal neuralgia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Pericardium Blood Stagnation and Stomach Blood Stagnation which are sometimes associated with intercostal neuralgia. If any of these patterns look like something you might suffer from, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Why might Chai Hu Shu Gan San help with intercostal neuralgia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Liver Qi Stagnation, a pattern sometimes associated with intercostal neuralgia. If it looks like you might suffer from Liver Qi Stagnation, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Why might Yue Ju Wan help with intercostal neuralgia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Qi Stagnation, a pattern sometimes associated with intercostal neuralgia. If it looks like you might suffer from Qi Stagnation, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Yue Ju Wan here

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Why might Xiao Chai Hu Tang help with intercostal neuralgia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation, a pattern sometimes associated with intercostal neuralgia. If it looks like you might suffer from Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang here