Sciatica according to Chinese Medicine

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In Chinese Medicine, sciatica can be associated with seven 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 sciatica can be caused by seven different patterns.

To understand whether someone's sciatica 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 sciatica alone. For instance when sciatica is caused by the pattern Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp, patients also experience symptoms such as swollen and painful joints that are warm to the touch and worsen at night, reduced range of motion in the affected joints, chills without sweating and weight loss. Similarly, patients with Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

We've listed below a description of the seven patterns associated with sciatica 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 six formulas that can help treat the various patterns associated with sciatica, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The seven "patterns of disharmony" associated with sciatica

Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp

Sciatica might be due to Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as swollen and painful joints that are warm to the touch and worsen at night, reduced range of motion in the affected joints, chills without sweating and weight loss. Similarly, patients with Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp here

Exterior Cold invading the Interior

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Symptoms: Chills Constipation Abdominal pain Low-grade fever Hypochondriac pain Cold hands and feet

Sciatica might be due to Exterior Cold invading the Interior if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, hypochondriac pain and chills. Similarly, patients with Exterior Cold invading the Interior typically exhibit tight (Jin) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Exterior Cold invading the Interior here

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

Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Tooth-marked, Swollen

Recommended herbal formula: Zhen Wu Tang

Symptoms: Edema Coughing Vomiting Dizziness Loose stools Palpitations Urinary difficulty Heavy sensation in the head Abdominal pain that worsens with cold Deep aching and heaviness in the extremities

Sciatica might be due to Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as abdominal pain that worsens with cold, urinary difficulty, deep aching and heaviness in the extremities and dizziness. Similarly, patients with Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency typically exhibit deep (Chen) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Read more about Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency here

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

Spleen Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formulas: Zhen Wu Tang, Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, Yi Huang Tang

Symptoms: Edema Fatigue Cold limbs Weak Limbs Loose stools Poor appetite Feeling of cold Vagina discharge

Generally speaking, Spleen Yang Deficiency often develops from Spleen Qi Deficiency, but it is more extensive and severe, with additional Cold symptoms, such as a cold feeling and cold limbs. It is because Spleen Yang fails to warm the body and Organs. Because of that, the body metabolism get slower and some food are not digested properly and passes directly into the stools. Since the Spleen fails to perform the function of transforming and transporting fluids, the circulation of Body Fluids is disturbed, causing symptoms such as Oedema, vaginal discharge and Lung mucus.

The causes are similar to these of Spleen Qi Deficiency, along with surplus consumption of cold, raw foods and drinks and overexposure to cold damp environments and climates.

Read more about Spleen Yang Deficiency here

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

Painful Obstruction with Liver and Kidney Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo), Fine (Xi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Symptoms: Palpitations Aversion to cold Shortness of breath Attraction to warmth Weakness and stiffness Heavy and painful sensations in the lower back and lower extremities

Sciatica might be due to Painful Obstruction with Liver and Kidney Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as heavy and painful sensations in the lower back and lower extremities, weakness and stiffness, aversion to cold and attraction to warmth. Similarly, patients with Painful Obstruction with Liver and Kidney Deficiency typically exhibit slow (Chi), weak (Ruo) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Painful Obstruction with Liver and Kidney Deficiency here

Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi), Tight (Jin)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple, Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Wen Jing Tang

Symptoms: Infertility Late period Painful period Cold in the lower abdomen Dark clots in menstrual blood Abdominal pain after childbirth

Sciatica might be due to Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as painful period, cold in the lower abdomen, infertility and late period. Similarly, patients with Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels typically exhibit deep (Chen), slow (Chi) or tight (Jin) pulses as well as a bluish-purple, pale tongue.

Read more about Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels here

Dampness and Phlegm in the Uterus

Sciatica might be due to Dampness and Phlegm in the Uterus if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as late period, painful period, dark clots in menstrual blood and brown vaginal discharge. Similarly, patients with Dampness and Phlegm in the Uterus typically exhibit choppy (Se), deep (Chen), slow (Chi) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a bluish-purple tongue.

Read more about Dampness and Phlegm in the Uterus here

The six herbal formulas that might help with sciatica

Zhen Wu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys. Eliminates Dampness.

Why might Zhen Wu Tang help with sciatica?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency, Exterior Cold invading the Interior and Spleen Yang Deficiency which are sometimes associated with sciatica. 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 Zhen Wu Tang here

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Why might Wen Jing Tang help with sciatica?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels and Dampness and Phlegm in the Uterus which are sometimes associated with sciatica. 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 Wen Jing Tang here

Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and inflammations. Unblocks the flow of Yang Qi and promotes movement (in areas with painful obstruction). Clears Wind and Damp. Relieves pain.

Why might Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang help with sciatica?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp, a pattern sometimes associated with sciatica. If it looks like you might suffer from Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang here

Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Interior. Disperses Cold. Unblocks the bowels. Alleviates pain.

Why might Da Huang Fu Zi Tang help with sciatica?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Exterior Cold invading the Interior, a pattern sometimes associated with sciatica. If it looks like you might suffer from Exterior Cold invading the Interior, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Da Huang Fu Zi Tang here

Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Key actions: Anti-rheumatic, clears Wind, Cold and Damp Stagnation. Strengthens the function of the Liver and Kidney. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Why might Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang help with sciatica?

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

Read more about Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang here

Ma Huang Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Releases exterior cold. Treats wheezing.

Why might Ma Huang Tang help with sciatica?

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

Read more about Ma Huang Tang here