The use of heat therapy is especially important in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In many cases the cause of pain or imbalance in our systems is due to slow moving or stagnant Qi. Warmth increases circulation and blood flow and as such moves our Qi. By applying warmth to an injured or painful area we encourage an increase of circulation in local blood vessels and tissues. By doing this we not only promote healing but also move old blood and damaged material that is being held in the area away. Cold and or ice therapy and does the opposite of this, it stalls or slows down movement of
For patients, this advice is often at odds with what they have always known. Most of us grew up with the R.I.C.E method deeply ingrained in our injury recovery tool kit. R.I.C.E focuses on the use of ice when treating injury, so I understand this new information will take a minute to wrap your mind around! Interestingly Gabe Mirkin, the American Sports Dr who originally coined the term R.I.C.E back in the late 70’s has actually revised this initial theory of ice being essential for recovery now pondering that it may hinder rather than help recovery.
Ice is particularly useful for preserving things in a static state. It slows or halts the decay of food and dead bodies, but it does not help damaged tissue repair itself. Ice does reduce the initial swelling and inflammation of a fresh injury, and it does reduce pain. The act of localised contraction of blood vessels and tissue by freezing however also inhibits the restoration of normal circulation. The static blood and fluid then congeal, contracts and hardens which makes them harder to disperse later.
There are many ways that I incorporate the use of heat therapy into my treatment room. In this blog I am going to explore in more depth moxibustion therapy, the use of TDP Heat Lamps and also liniments and herbal patches.
Moxibustion therapy is a gentle and relaxing heat therapy that has been used for thousands of years and is particularly common in Japanese medicine. It is the process of burning the dried herb mugwort, referred to as moxa, over the skin to activate the acupuncture points through heat stimulation. The heat and herbal properties of the moxa warms the channels stimulating the flow of Qi to the area which in turn encourages blood flow and healing.
Moxa itself comes in a variety of forms and the therapy has a range of styles and applications. I incorporate the use of Moxibustion therapy in its various forms into many of my treatments.
In clinic you may notice me use moxa in the following ways:
Needle Head Moxa or Kyutoshin is a Japanese Moxibustion technique where a small ball of the herb mugwort (moxa) is added to the head of the needle and lit. This gentle heat generates a soothing and warming sensation directly to the acupuncture point. This is a moxibustion technique that I would choose in order to introduce a deeper warmth into a localised area. By doing this I can invigorate the movement of blood and shift congestion.
The Moxa Stick is long cigar shaped stick is made of compacted mugwort and is probably the most well recognised form of moxibustion due to its convenience for home use and its fame for the turning of breech babies when applied to acupuncture point Zhiyin or Bladder 67 as pictured. In clinic I can use this mild form of moxibustion by moving the stick over the desired area in many ways. Depending on the individuals needs I may choose circular or pecking motions. This form of moxa is great for warming larger areas of the body.
Moxa Cones are shaped from loose moxa (known as moxa wool or punk) and applied to the points. This can either be direct – moxa is placed directly to the skin and removed before it burns down or indirect where the moxa cone may rest on a base of ginger, garlic, herbs, or salt. The use of ginger or other bases is due their own healing nature and has the added benefit of a layer to protect the skin.
Rice grain moxa or Tonetskyu uses a high-grade moxa rolled into tiny ‘worms’ which are applied directly to the skin. The moxa is ignited with incense and burns for only a few seconds before it is plucked off the body. This applies quick gentle heat directly to the acupuncture point and may be repeated several times to intensify the depth of treatment or heat.
A Tiger warmer is a thin metal device which carries a stick of moxa inside. The tiger warmer can then be rubber and pressed over the skins surface to stimulate and warm the acupuncture points.
The Moxa box is an excellent way of applying heat to larger areas. It is perfect for lower back pain and period pain or to bring warmth to areas such as the Kidneys. It is one of the most loved forms of moxa treatment in clinic as it’s such a deep relaxing warmth.
TDP Lamp - Heat Lamp
Once you spend some time under a heat lamp, you will wish you never had to leave.
TDP is short for the Chinese “Teding Diancibo Pu” which means specific or special electromagnetic spectrum. The original design was invented in 1978 in China. The TDP lamp works by transmitting far infrared radiation. These far infrared light waves work on loosening the tissues connecting muscles and organs allowing for optimal blood circulation and qi flow aiding the natural healing processes within the body.
The TDP lamp contains a special mineral plate. As that plate heats up the minerals within it are ionized. The radiation carries the ions into the patient with the warmth penetrating below the skin and into the muscle. The combination of heat and minerals are remarkably similar to the body’s natural energy and as such they simulate the healing and metabolic processes of the body.
The TDP lamp is beneficial for a wide range of conditions and is incorporated into almost all my treatments. It is particularly effective however for the following conditions:
Body pain and stiffness
Strain and Sprains
Joint pain and difficulty in movement
General health and wellness
The lamps are so popular and the benefits so obvious that I have had several patients who have sourced their own lamps for home use to have optimal symptom management and relief.
Herbal liniments and patches
We have several great liniments and patches available at Red Bridge that I use regularly in the treatment room and often suggest patients purchase for home use. These are brilliant to have on hand in your home dispensary especially when treating chronic pain such as arthritis.
These awesome products all have different combinations of ingredients. This means that depending on each patient’s overall pattern and presentation one may be more suitable that the other so if you would like to select one for yourself, please chat to me in clinic about which would be best suited to your needs.
They all bring relief by warming the area of pain and encouraging blood flow which in turn promotes healing and comfort. They are a great accompaniment to in clinic treatment and an excellent way of supporting healing between Acupuncture appointments.
The Salonpas patches are a convenient long wearing patch that is perfect for muscle pain and stiffness, bruising, sprains, and strains.
Trans Wood Lock Liniment is quite a hot liniment. It can be very therapeutic for arthritic and muscular pain. It is the warmest of the liniments that we stock and depending on individual patterns and presentation may not be suitable for all patients. If you think this might be a good product for you have a chat with me to make sure it is the best choice.
Zen is the newest liniment to our shelves as we are currently unable to source the Zheng Gu Shui you would possibly be more familiar with. So far, we are finding the Zen to be an excellent exchange for our old ‘liquid gold’ of the liniment selection! Most commonly used as a pre training liniment to encourage blood flow to areas that are prone to injury or discomfort and as a treatment for muscle ache and arthritic pain.
Po Sum On Oil is not only great for sore muscles, sprains and strains but also useful in the treatment of chest soreness from bronchial cough and mild abdominal pain!
Eagle Brand Oil has an amazing menthol and eucalyptus base and is great for back ache, arthritis pain and is one of my go-to liniments for the treatment of sprains and strains.
Tiger Balm Oil really lends itself to conditions where there is a lot of inflammation present but can also be used for general back ache and muscular pain.
Pain is the result of stagnation and blockages and in order to relieve pain we want strong blood and qi flow around the body. Warmth encourages this which is why in Traditional Chinese Medicine we love to introduce warm to the body in response to pain or signs of blockage.