chinese medicine and heat

Heat vs. Ice in Chinese Medicine

Got some pain in that knee? How about that backache that just won’t quit? An injury you just sustained? Guess what – it probably doesn’t need ice. I know it sounds crazy, but while Western medical texts are currently revising their recommendations for icing to cure pain, Chinese Medicine has been clear about how to treat our ailments for thousands of years. The most appropriate thing to reach for when your body needs a little extra TLC is likely not ice, it’s heat.

Chinese Medicine Solutions

You see inflammation isn’t the problem; it’s the symptom. Similarly, pain is a messenger – your body’s way of telling you there’s a problem. It’s not the problem itself.

So when you stunt the body’s natural healing response, or quiet the pain you’re feeling by numbing it, you’re essentially shooting the messenger. This leaves the underlying issue completely unresolved, and your body inhibited from delivering the necessary message for the area in need.

In fact, you could be creating even more of a problem by reaching for that ice pack. It’s really quite simple if you think about it in terms of the way water flows in various seasons. Go with me here. Blood carries nutrients. The body needs nutrients for tissue repair. If a river flows more quickly in the summer than it does in the winter, does it make more sense to heat the blood if you want to get a ton of fresh oxygen and nutrients to tissue or cool the crap out of it? Makes sense, right?

By cooling the area that needs repair, you’re actually slowing the delivery of nutrients, thus slowing the repair process. Yes, you’ve essentially shot the messenger by using ice to kill the pain, and tied the cook’s hand behind his back so he can’t fix the issue in the kitchen as quickly as he could have otherwise.

Healing in Traditional Chinese Medicine

It’s one of the fundamental principles in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): Where there is free flow; there is no pain. Where there is pain; there is no free flow.

Ice makes blood vessels contract. Contraction decreases blood flow. Heat makes blood vessels dilate. Dilated blood vessels deliver blood more quickly.

Batta – boom. Batta – bang.

So next time you’re tempted to reach for that ice, give your body a leg up and reach for a heating pad (or a rice pack like I use at my home). Better yet, schedule an appointment with your local licensed Acupuncturist who can burn some moxa on your acupuncture needles or finish your session with some fire cupping. That backache of yours may thank you it.

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