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 Shu Jin 2 for bulging and herniated discs, stenosis, and piriformis syndromes. While my primary treatments for back pain are and dry needling and acupuncture , when there is severe acute pain, or chronic pain, I like to supplement with Shu Jin 2 and another formula, Dang Gui Si Ni Tang.
Why Use Chinese Herbs for Back Pain?
The Chinese did not just invent gunpowder, silk, and paper, but their medical wisdom was the first to scientifically diagnosis illness through a rational, empirical method. And their tradition of martial arts goes back millennia.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are sister arts to Kung Fu and Tai Qi. Every martial arts dojo used acupuncture and Chinese herbs for back pain and injuries. Many had secret formulas. This is called “hit” medicine, medicine that treats injuries from being struck.
Why Use Shu Jin 2 Chinese Herbs for Back Pain?
Shu Jin 2 is better than ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories. Its analgesic effect on pain is more subtle than opiates, but it will reduce your pain fairly quickly.
And it will never make you feel drugged, or constipated, and, unlike ibuprofen or asprin, does not irritate the gut and is not toxic to the liver. For, more specs on the formula, scroll down a bit.
I use Dang Gui Si Ni Tang for Sciatic pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, especially if you are weak or feel cold all the time. Its also great for Reynaud’s sydrome.
But Shu Jin 2 is my “go to” formula for bulging disc, herniated disc, and sciatic pain in acute conditions. Also for chronic low back pain.
Modern Formula Classical Roots
Shu Jin 2 is are modern Chinese herbs for back pain with a classical name—Shu means to release—as in to let go of, or to open up; –Jin– is the connective tissue, muscles, fascia, and tendons.
What are we releasing? We are releasing shortened tight fascia and muscles, but also we are releasing inflammation.
Most back pain involves inflammation. While the dry needling and acupuncture are great for pain and inflammation, I can help you get better faster and more thoroughly, by adding Chinese herbs.
What Causes Pain?
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. This is how we describe the mechanism of pain.
Shu Jin 2 Chinese Herbs for Back Pain from Acute or Chronic Injury
When you break your leg skiing, or sprain your ankle playing soccer, you have Qi and Blood stagnation. You will also, in trauma, have pathological heat.
Chronic tension in the neck and shoulders from computer work and stress are more simple Qi stasis, though it can become so dramatic there are actual tissue changes, like fibrositic nodules in the upper traps.
Shu Jin 2 will assist the work of dry needling and acupuncture in reducing those lesions.
Acupuncture, Dry Needling, BodyWork, and Chinese Herbs for Back Pain all Unblock Qi and Blood stasis.
Shu Jin 2, Acupuncture, and Dry Needling all fundamentally unblock Qi stasis, whether you conceive of that in Asian medical terms, or Western. Painful activated trigger points ARE Qi stasis. And Qi stasis from stress or overuse activate trigger points.
Poor blood circulation from injury or stress is blood stasis due to Qi stasis. Since Shu Jin 2 improves blood circulation, its help relieve pain from blood stasis.
Here is a You Tube video of me doing dry needling and acupuncture on a patient with chronic low back pain.
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
- Short Temper
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 muscles. 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 increase blood circulation, reduce pain (analgesia) and decrease 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 Feldenkrais Awareness thru Movement.
These can change how you recruit your muscles, and correct errors in biomechanics. At the same time we often injure ourselves or develop chronic pain by under recruiting antagonist muscles.
Shu Jin 2 Chinese Herbs for Back Pain Ingredients
Shu Jin 2 is a made by Sun Ten herbs, one of the oldest and most respected Taiwanese TCM Traditional Chinese Medicine herb companies.
It contains herbs that reduce pain, reduce inflammation, increase blood circulation, and also remove dampness and damp heat.
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).
To find out more about Chinese herbs