Muscle pain according to Chinese Medicine

Muscle 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 muscle 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 muscle pain is often associated with absence of sweating, coughing of copious thin and white sputum and general sensation of heaviness in the pattern “Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause muscle pain.

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

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

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

In Chinese Medicine muscle 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.

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the king ingredient for Xiao Qing Long Tang, a formula used for Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

This is when, often due to a stagnant Qi, the Body Fluids are retained in the chest and Lungs.

In addition to muscle pain, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm include absence of sweating, coughing of copious thin and white sputum and general sensation of heaviness.

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm is often treated with Xiao Qing Long Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Xiao Qing Long Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm here

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the king ingredient for Da Qing Long Tang, a formula used for Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs

Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs

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

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick white coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

This is when Body Fluids stagnate in the four limbs instead of flowing in the body and getting released as sweat.

In addition to muscle pain, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs include absence of sweating, coughing of copious thin and white sputum and feeling of heaviness.

Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs is often treated with Da Qing Long Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Da Qing Long Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Promotes sweating".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs here

Two herbal formulas that might help with muscle pain

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Xiao Qing Long Tang help with muscle pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' of which muscle pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Fluids Above The Diaphragm include absence of sweating, coughing of copious thin and white sputum and general sensation of heaviness.

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang here

Da Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Promotes sweating. Releases the Exterior. Clears Interior Heat.

Why might Da Qing Long Tang help with muscle pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs' of which muscle pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Fluids In The Limbs include absence of sweating, coughing of copious thin and white sputum and feeling of heaviness.

Read more about Da Qing Long Tang here

The three Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat muscle pain

Why might Cinnamon Twig (Gui Zhi) help with muscle pain?

Because Cinnamon Twig is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat muscle pain as a symptom, like Xiao Qing Long Tang or Da Qing Long Tang for instance.

Cinnamon Twigs is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Adjusts the nutritive Ying and defensive Wei Qi. Relieves the Exterior through sweating. Warms and disperses Cold. Removes obstruction of Yang. Promotes the circulation of Yang Qi in the chest. Regulates and moves blood.

Read more about Cinnamon Twigs here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with muscle pain?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat muscle pain as a symptom, like Da Qing Long Tang or Xiao Qing Long Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Ephedra (Ma Huang) help with muscle pain?

Because Ephedra is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat muscle pain as a symptom, like Da Qing Long Tang or Xiao Qing Long Tang for instance.

Ephedra is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Bladder and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Releases the surface through sweating. Promotes the circulation of Lung Qi and stop wheezing. Promotes urination.

Read more about Ephedra here