Bone pain according to Chinese Medicine

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Bone pain can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like bone pain here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here bone pain is often associated with tinnitus, vertigo and infertility in the pattern “Kidney Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause bone pain.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of bone pain we’ve identified three herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat bone pain.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause bone pain

In Chinese Medicine bone pain is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Kidney Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can be caused by prolonged overwork, excessive sexual activity, chronic long term illnesses, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Kidney Yang tonics herbs, smoking and Kidney depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar, and fruit juices.

In addition to bone pain, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include tinnitus, vertigo and infertility.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome, Prolonged Periods or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency here

Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) is the king ingredient for Fu Zi Tang, a formula used for Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp

Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Deep (Chen), Minute (Wei), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

In addition to bone pain, other symptoms associated with Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp include generalized body pain and cold extremities.

Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp is often treated with Fu Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Fu Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and transform water and dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Meridians".

Read more about Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp here

Three herbal formulas that might help with bone pain

Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Meridians. Assists the Yang. Dispels Cold. Transforms Dampness.

Why might Fu Zi Tang help with bone pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp' of which bone pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Yang Deficiency With Cold-Damp include generalized body pain and cold extremities.

Read more about Fu Zi Tang here

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with bone pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which bone pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Yin Deficiency include tinnitus, vertigo and infertility.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with bone pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which bone pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Yin Deficiency include tinnitus, vertigo and infertility.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here

Acupuncture points used for bone pain

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat bone pain

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with bone pain?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bone pain as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Zuo Gui Wan for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

Why might Yam (Shan Yao) help with bone pain?

Because Yam is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bone pain as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Zuo Gui Wan for instance.

Yam is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Tonifies the Lung Qi and nourishes the Lung Yin. Nourishes the Kidneys and consolidates Jing.

Read more about Yam here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with bone pain?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bone pain as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Achyranthes Root (Niu Xi) help with bone pain?

Because Achyranthes Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bone pain as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Wan or Yu Nu Jian for instance.

Achyranthes Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood and relieves pain in the raw state. Tonic to the Liver and Kidneys and strengthens the bones and sinews. Reduces Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner. Regulates the flow of reckless Blood caused by either ascendant Liver Yang or Yin Deficient Fire.

Read more about Achyranthes Roots here

Why might Anemarrhena Rhizome (Zhi Mu) help with bone pain?

Because Anemarrhena Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bone pain as a symptom, like Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan or Yu Nu Jian for instance.

Anemarrhena Rhizomes is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Stomach, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and Fire from the Qi level. Clears Heat and Fire from the Lung and Stomach. Clears Heat and tonifies the Yin.

Read more about Anemarrhena Rhizomes here