In the blog entitled What’s The Deal With Pain? I wrote a simplified explanation for the causes of pain – visceral, structural, and myofascial – that is completely Western in scope. But sometimes coming from a different perspective can get the point across better, so here’s an explanation inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to show you what I mean.
In TCM, Qi (chi), Blood, and Vital Substances flow through channels, or meridians. There are twelve main meridians, each associated with a specific organ (stomach, spleen, liver, etc.), as well as eight extra meridians and thousands of smaller connecting collateral channels.
Sometimes an obstruction develops in a meridian that can be caused by a whole host of issues – trauma or injury, overuse (or underuse), sleeping on a bad mattress, or even just time. You can think of these obstructions like an accident on a freeway – two cars collide causing the cars behind them, which can’t stop fast enough, to start slamming into each other until, at some point, the drivers behind them see what’s going on and slow down – putting an end to the pile-up.
However, by now there’s not only a mass of wrecked cars, but also the ensuing traffic jam of cars bringing up the rear. Fortunately, there’s an exit ramp not far behind the wreck so cars start flowing off the freeway and onto the side streets. Unfortunately, the side streets aren’t really equipped to handle all that overflow traffic so they now become clogged, too.
When the Qi, Blood, and Vital Substances hit an obstruction – in your shoulder, for example, caused by sitting at a computer holding your arms in a sustained isometric contraction for hours every day, 5 days a week, for years and years – they have nowhere to go except to be diverted into the smaller, ill-equipped collateral channels.
Not only is the pain a result of the obstruction (the wreck-site), but now there are all sorts of additional issues caused by the inability of the collateral channels to handle the over-flow.
The good news is that once the tow-trucks come (in the form of expert bodyworking technique) and slowly clear up the carnage (releasing the obstruction), the flow of traffic (qi, blood, and viral substances) on the freeway is returned to normal (and the pain goes away).
There’s a good chance that, sooner or later, you’re going to experience your own pain pile-up. If you do, just remember that developing a regular schedule of bodywork is one of the best ways to help manage it.