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The Practical Herbalist

Autumn Pain

For many people the season of autumn brings more than colorful leaves, it brings an increase in pain. Old injuries start to act up making some people stiff and sore. In Traditional Chinese Medicine there is a word for this, it is called a Bi (bee) syndrome. Bi is a Chinese medical concept that was first described 2200 years ago in the medical text the Huang di nei jing. The term Bi does not translate well, but refers to a broad class of medical conditions, often involving chronic pain. Here in Wisconsin we see three types of Bi syndrome become more predominant during the Autumn. They are classified by the nature of the pain, and are named after the weather conditions that they most represent.

Wind Bi is marked by varied pains that tend to move, predominantly in the upper part of the body. The pain seems to come and go at random, a pain in a joint one day, headache on the side of the head the next. Often there is stiffness of the neck, and often the patient finds themselves avoiding wind and drafts.

Damp Bi or fixed Bi is where the patient experiences localized fixed pains that do not move. The pain has a heavy dull nature to it. Limbs that are affected feel heavy and weak. The patient often feels tired and sluggish, particularly during humid, wet weather.

Cold Bi has a sharp, tight, stiff type of pain. It feels better with the application of heat and movement. When a cold Bi is in a joint, the patient often knows when and how it started. There is usually a previous injury to the area that happened due to cold weather such as frostbite, or a sports injury that was excessively iced.

The rapidly changing autumn weather with cold damp winds, remind people of the aches and pains that weren't quite as bad during the heat of summer. Many treat the pain with increasing amounts of over-the-counter analgesics. Traditional Chinese medicine has many treatments that can greatly decrease the pain, and help the body to heal. Wind Bi responds well to herbal formulas that calm wind type symptoms and nourish the body to strengthen the healing process. In damp Bi and cold Bi cases, herbs that are said to be warm and drying are used. Moxibustion, an acupuncture technique that utilizes heat, is also very helpful in reducing the pain and speeding the healing process. None of these treatments can change the structure of the body, in other words, fix the structure of a joint that has been damaged. They do however help the body to heal as much as possible and decrease the pain and increase the functionality of the joint. Traditional Chinese medicine looks at a Bi syndrome as an injury to the body that never fully healed. If that process of healing is restarted and completed, then the patient can move on with decreased pain, and maybe even a greater love of this time of year.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066