Knee pain is a common condition which can result from injury, inflammation or wear and tear. It is usually treated with medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers. In severe cases, surgery may also be necessary.
Knee pain can also be successfully treated by traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), especially acupuncture.
Knee Pain in Traditional Chinese Medicine
From a TCM viewpoint, there are a few different reasons why you may be suffering from knee pain. These can be diagnosed according to the type of pain, what makes it better or worse, and any other co-existing symptoms you may have.
Painful Obstruction (Bi) Syndrome
In TCM, joint pain is often classed as what is known as bi syndrome. This is especially common in chronic joint pain such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.
Bi syndrome is a condition in which a pathogenic factor such as heat, cold, dampness or wind invades a joint, causing a blockage. This leads qi and blood to become stuck and stagnate in the area, resulting in pain along with other symptoms.
Under normal circumstances, your body should be able to easily fight off this type of invasion, but sometimes due to an underlying weakness in your body’s defences, they can successfully take hold.
The type of pain you experience will depend on what is causing the obstruction:
- Burning pain accompanied by heat, redness or swelling in the affected area
- Tenderness to pressure
- Pain is relieved by ice or cool packs
- Pain is fixed in one area and stabbing in nature
- Pain is worse in cold weather
- Pain is relieved by heat and pressure
- Pain is fixed in one area and may be accompanied by swelling
- Pain may be accompanied by heaviness, numbness or tingling
- Pain is worse in wet or humid weather
- Dampness can easily combine with heat or cold to give mixed symptoms
- Pain is intermittent or wandering in nature
- Pain is worse in windy weather or draughts
The treatment for bi syndrome usually includes acupuncture to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and improve the circulation of qi and blood. Herbal formulae may also be used to help expel any invading pathogens and strengthen your body’s defences.
Other treatments such as stretches, massage or trigger point release can be used to improve flexibility and relieve muscle stiffness in the area.
Kidney Yin or Kidney Yang Deficiency
The Kidney channel passes through the knees, and knee pain can often be a sign of an underlying weakness of either Kidney yin or Kidney yang.
In TCM, the Kidneys are seen as the source of all yin and yang in the body. It is important for both of these to be in balance with one another to maintain a state of good health and well-being. If either Kidney yin or Kidney yang becomes deficient, symptoms begin to appear throughout the body.
If your knee pain is due to Kidney yin deficiency, you will likely notice other signs of imbalance elsewhere too, including:
- Pain and weakness of your knees and lower back
- Feelings of heat in the body, especially the hands and feet
- Seminal emissions in men
If your knee pain is due to Kidney yang deficiency, your symptoms will be slightly different. You may experience:
- Soreness or cold sensations of your knees and lower back
- Cold limbs
- Difficult urination
- Low sex drive
If your knee pain is due to a deficiency of either Kidney yin or Kidney yang, it is important to treat this imbalance as well as treating your knee pain directly. You will most likely be prescribed a combination of acupuncture and herbs to do this. Your TCM practitioner may also recommend that you make some dietary or lifestyle changes to rebalance your Kidney energy.
Looking After Your Kidneys
One of the most important things you can do to take care of your Kidneys is maintain a good balance between activity and rest. Avoid overworking or over exercising and keep stress to a minimum as this is very damaging to your Kidneys. Keep your Kidney area warm and well protected from the elements, and eat plenty of nourishing foods.
Some of the best foods for nourishing the Kidneys are dark or black in colour, including:
- Beans, especially black beans and kidney beans
- Black sesame seeds
- Dark green vegetables
- Miso soup
By including more of these foods in your diet and making a few simple lifestyle adjustments, you can protect your Kidneys and reduce symptoms such as knee pain.
Along with appropriate treatment from a professional TCM practitioner, you can successfully manage your condition, reducing the need for medication. And as an extra bonus you may notice improvements in your overall health and well-being too!