Lower back pain according to Chinese Medicine

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Lower back 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 lower back 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 lower back pain is often associated with dizziness, tinnitus and night sweats in the pattern “Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause lower back pain.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of lower back pain we’ve identified five 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 lower back pain.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause lower back pain

In Chinese Medicine lower back pain is a symptom for 5 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 and Liver Yin Deficiency

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

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to lower back pain, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and night sweats.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Vaginal Itching.

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui 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: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency here

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 lower back pain, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and night sweats.

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

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

Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency

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

In addition to lower back pain, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and night sweats.

Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency is often treated with Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Xian Chang Shou 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: "Treats Yin Deficiency of the Lungs and Kidneys".

Read more about Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency here

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

Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency

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

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to lower back pain, other symptoms associated with Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation.

Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency is often treated with Dang Gui Di Huang Yin, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Dong Quai - Dang Gui - as a key herb). Dang Gui Di Huang Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes Blood".

Read more about Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency here

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

Spleen or Kidney Qi Deficiency

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

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to lower back pain, other symptoms associated with Spleen or Kidney Qi Deficiency include dizziness, feeling of cold and palpitations.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Spleen or Kidney Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Early Menstruation.

Spleen or Kidney Qi Deficiency is often treated with Gui Pi Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Gui Pi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi and blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood".

Read more about Spleen or Kidney Qi Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with lower back pain

Tiao Gan Tang

Source date: 1827 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin.

Why might Tiao Gan Tang help with lower back pain?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Tiao Gan Tang here

Dang Gui Di Huang Yin

Source date: 1640 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Blood. Tonifies Kidney and Liver Yin. Regulates the menstrual cycle.

Why might Dang Gui Di Huang Yin help with lower back pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency' of which lower back pain is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Dang Gui Di Huang Yin 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 lower back pain?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan

Source date: 1615 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Treats Yin Deficiency of the Lungs and Kidneys.

Why might Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan help with lower back pain?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney And Lung Yin Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and night sweats.

Read more about Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan here

He Che Da Zao Wan

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies the Kidneys. Strengthens the Directing and Penetrating Vessels. Regulates the periods.

Why might He Che Da Zao Wan help with lower back pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen or Kidney Qi Deficiency' of which lower back pain is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Spleen or Kidney Qi Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Early Menstruation.

Read more about He Che Da Zao Wan here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat lower back pain

Why might Yam (Shan Yao) help with lower back pain?

Because Yam is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat lower back pain as a symptom, like Gui Shao Di Huang Tang or Liu Wei Di Huang 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 Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with lower back pain?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat lower back pain as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Ba Xian Chang Shou 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with lower back pain?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat lower back pain as a symptom, like Tiao Gan Tang or Dang Gui Di Huang Yin for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Cornelian Cherry (Shan Zhu Yu) help with lower back pain?

Because Cornelian Cherry is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat lower back pain as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan for instance.

Cornelian Cherries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding.

Read more about Cornelian Cherries here

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

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat lower back pain as a symptom, like He Che Da Zao Wan or Zuo Gui Yin 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