Sore back according to Chinese Medicine

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Sore back 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 sore back 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 sore back is often associated with poor appetite, loose stools and fatigue in the pattern “Oedema”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause sore back.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of sore back 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 sore back.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause sore back

In Chinese Medicine sore back 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.

Water Plantain (Ze Xie) is the king ingredient for Wu Ling San, a formula used for Oedema

Oedema

Pulse type(s): Slowed-down (Huan), Hidden (Fu)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Oedema manifests itself as swellings due to the retention of Body Fluids. Chinese Medicine believes that it originates from the leaking of Body Fluids from their normal pathways into the space between skin and muscles.

In addition to sore back, other symptoms associated with Oedema include poor appetite, loose stools and fatigue.

Oedema is often treated with Wu Ling San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Water Plantain - Ze Xie - as a key herb). Wu Ling San belongs to the category of "formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Promotes urination,".

Read more about Oedema here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to sore back, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, scanty periods and late period.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

Korean Mint (Huo Xiang) is the king ingredient for Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Soggy (Ru)

In addition to sore back, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include dizziness, late period and poor appetite.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Heat is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Intermenstrual Bleeding or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Damp-Heat is often treated with Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Korean Mint - Huo Xiang - as a key herb). Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San belongs to the category of "formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Damp-Heat here

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 sore back, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, scanty periods and tinnitus.

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 sore back, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, scanty periods and tinnitus.

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

Five herbal formulas that might help with sore back

Wu Pi Yin

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Reduces edema, diuretic. Regulates and strengthens Spleen Qi.

Why might Wu Pi Yin help with sore back?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Oedema' of which sore back is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Oedema include poor appetite, loose stools and fatigue.

Read more about Wu Pi Yin here

Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Warms and transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Strengthens the Spleen. Resolves Dampness.

Why might Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang help with sore back?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which sore back is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang here

Yi Huang Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Strengthens the Spleen. Dries Dampness. Clears Heat. Stops vaginal discharge.

Why might Yi Huang Tang help with sore back?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which sore back is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Yi Huang Tang here

Gui Shao Di Huang Tang

Source date: 1706 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Blood. Nourishes Yin.

Why might Gui Shao Di Huang Tang help with sore back?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Gui Shao Di Huang Tang 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 sore back?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat sore back

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

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sore back as a symptom, like Wu Pi Yin or Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang 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 Yam (Shan Yao) help with sore back?

Because Yam is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sore back as a symptom, like Yi Huang Tang or Gui Shao Di Huang Tang 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 sore back?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sore back as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang 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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with sore back?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sore back as a symptom, like Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang or Ping Wei San 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with sore back?

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