Chinese Herbs for Back Pain and Sciatica–Shu Jin 2

My favorite Chinese Herbs for back pain and sciatica is a formula called Shu Jin 2. I also use this Chinese herbs formula for bulging and herniated discs, stenosis, and piriformis syndromes.


Modern Chinese Herbs formula with Classical Roots

Shu Jin 2 is a modern Chinese herb formula with a classical name—

Shu means to release—as in to let go of, or to open up; Jin is the connective tissue, fascia, tendons.


Pain and Blocked Qi Flow in Acupuncture Theory

The ancient classics of Acupuncture describe pain as due to “blocked Qi flow”. When anything in your body, or for that matter in nature, works well, its because everything is moving without obstruction.

Our heart beats, our neurons communicate, our bowels move, the menses flows easily, we cycle through emotions without obsessions or compusions.

We call this Qi flow in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. When our Qi is obstructed, whether from excessive tension levels or from injury, the Qi stagnates.


What are signs of Qi stagnation in the case of Back pain, Bulging Disc, and Sciatica?

The signs of Qi stagnation include

  • Muscle and Fascial Tension
  • Tight Muscles
  • Pain
  • Irritability
  • Short Temper
  • Headache
  • Inflammation


Muscular Tightness is Qi Stagnation

Most cases of Back pain and Bulging Disc or Sciatia begin with muscular tightness. Muscular tightness can occur from chronic stress and tension, or from repetitive use injury.

Reptitive use injury are the kinds of injuries typists, musicians, plumber, tennis players, and auto mechanics get. This is different from the kind of sudden traumatic injury one gets from heavy lifting or a fall.

But even in the case of heavy lifting, we are much more prone to injury if we have tight muscle. That’s because tight muscles are shortened muscles and fascia. Now the muscles are functionally weaker.

Since muscle work as levers do, by contraction/shortening and legnthening, its clear that a shortened muscle has a weaker load potential

Tight Muscles are Shortened Weaker Muscles More Prone to Injury

If you notice that our muscles tighten when we are tense, and that we are not usually tense when we are relaxed and happy, then you can understand how Qi Stagnation expresses itself thru the muscles and fascia.

This is why you should relax a little bit at the beginning of a work out. You will notice 100 meter dash sprinters shaking out and loosending before their event. All professional atheletes work on staying calm. The best foul shot shooters in the NBA or penalty kickers in World Football are cool, calm, and collected. What they are doing is ensuring good Qi flow, or Qi circulation while under pressure.

Its also true that when drunks often sustain falls without getting injured. That’s because alcohol is a muscle relaxer. Its why drunks slur their speech and cant walk straight.

So the key point is that tight muscles are more prone to injury because they are shortened and weaker as a result. We call this process Qi stagnation.

When bad enough it also involves swelling, redness, inflammation, actual tissue changes, and of course pain.

Tight Muscles, Back Pain, Sciatica, and Qi Stagnation

Our backs are complex lattice works of muscles and fascia that enable us to bend and twist our spines in all directions…

If you look at an anatomy book, or, for that matter, if you are a carnivore, cook a whole chicken or mammal like lamb or beef, you will be able to see all the different muscles acting on the spine. They connect the individual bones (vertebrae) of the spine to each other. The bones are separated from each other by the discs, which are like jelly donuts, if you will.

The problem is that when we overuse our muscles, they shorten. And overuse can involve repetitive use, but in the case of the spine that repeated use can be simply too much sitting. It can also be chronic mental tension.

The problem here with the chronic tension and sittng is that because muscles shorten with use, this shortening compresses the intervertebral space, adding massive pressure to the discs. This can cause them to bulge or herniate, especially if you then suddenly sneeze, twist and bend, or do some sort of intense physical action like deadlifting or swinging a baseball bat.

Since muscles work by shortening and releasing, if you sustain large amounts of muscular tension; or if you fail to stretch on a regular basis, or if you overuse you back, then you will develop Qi stagnation which causes tight muscles.

Qi Stagnation and Mind

Another kind of Qi stagnation we see often enough with serious back pain is that sometimes once the back is injured we become anxious about it, causing further muscular tension.

This is a viscous cycle in which anxiety about our injury reenforces the muscular tension (Qi stagnation) that may have contributed to the injury in the first place.

That’s why the muscle relaxers that MD’s prescribe are actually anti-anxiety drugs, they relax the muscles by reducing anxiousness. That’s why they may make you feel groggy, they are the opposite of caffeine.

Its also why BodyScanning exercises are so valuable to muscle tension and back pain.

Our goal with acupuncture, dry needling, massage, heat therapy, electro stim, TENS, hot baths, body scanning, of Qi Gung relaxation exercises, is to “restore Qi Flow”, another words, to get the muscles and fascia back to their normal legnth.


Shu Jin 2 Chinese Herbs for Back Pain and Sciatica

Whenever I treat back pain, low back pain, sciatic pain, piriformis syndrome, or any pain of the legs or low back with dry needling or acupuncture,  i like to use Chinese herbs like Shu Jin 2, to help reduce inflammation and pain. It can take a perfect storm of therapeutic methods to heal from disease and pain conditions or injuries. That’s why even MDs give analgesics, muscle relaxors, and send you to physical therapy.

While acupuncture and dry needling trigger points are amazingly effective for back pain and sciatica, its always good to supplement with Chinese herb medicinals that reduce pain (analgesia)  and inflammation. We call this “moving Qi and blood” or unblocking Qi stagnation.

Its also why I always recommend therapeutic exercises for injury and pain, from Egoscue or Function First exercises to restore to Feldenkrais Awareness thru Movement.

All of these can be said to help restore normal Qi flow, to “unblock Qi stagnation.”

Shu Jin 2 Chinese Herbs for Back Pain Ingredients

Shu Jin 2 is a very interesting formula. Its made by Sun Ten herbs, one of the oldest and most respected Taiwanese TCM Traditional Chinese Medicine herb companies.

It contains multiple categories of herbs that treat pain.

When our Qi stagnates, we also develop what Chinese medicine calls dampness. This is because fluids move only when Qi flows. When there is injury and inflammation this always includes swelling and accumulation of fluid, either withint the disc space or around the nerve. This formula contains herb like Qin Jaio and Long Dan to reduce dampness.

We can move the Dampness with specific “damp reducing” herbs, and we can relax and soften the fascia, tendons, ligaments, and muscles by nourishing them with blood tonics that relax the fibers. Fibers work better when there is good blood supply at the micro level. Here are herbs like Dang Gui and Bai Shao that have that effect.

Then we add herbs that warm the Qi, which helps it flow thru all the channels, like Fang Feng and Gui Zhi. We also add herbs to simply promote the movement of Qi and blood, like the last two, Mo Yao and Ru Xian.

Shu Jin 2 Ingredient List –Common English names and Chinese Pin Yin text.
  • Dong quai root (dang gui)
  • Chinese peony root without bark (bai shao),
  • Poria sclerotium (fu ling),
  • Sichuan lovage rhizome (chuan xiong),
  • Rehmannia root tuber (di huang),
  • Peach seed (tao ren),
  • Tangerine dried rind of mature fruit (chen pi),
  • Bai-zhu atractylodes rhizome (bai zhu),
  • Notopterygium root & rhizome (qiang huo),
  • Ginger rhizome (sheng jiang),
  • Fragrant angelica root (bai zhi),
  • Corydalis yanhusuo tuber (yan hu suo),
  • Large-leaf gentian root (qin jiao),
  • Scabrous gentian rhizome (long dan),
  • Siler root (fang feng),
  • Achyranthes root (niu xi),
  • Cassia twig (gui zhi),
  • Chinese licorice root (gan cao),
  • Myrrh oleo-gum-resin (mo yao),
  • Frankincense oleo-gum-resin (ru xiang).










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