About a year ago, my mother lost her ability to walk. She was confined to a wheel chair, paralyzed by pain. The doctors she saw insisted on surgery, and she began a tumultuous quest toward recovery. At surgery, the plan was to cut into her neck to access her cervical vertebrae, where they installed metal rods and performed fusions to improve nervous system function.
It was successful in restoring a substantial amount of mobility, but she has remained in perpetual pain since then—nursing the agony with medication like Gabapentin, codeine, and other prescriptions that are relatively hepatotoxic. And isn’t weird that a nerve blocker like Gabapentin would be used for someone who needs to reestablish their neural pathways? But I digress.
According to Western diagnosis, she had “osteo-degenerative arthritis,” which is a condition where the bones lose their density and become very fragile. The mineral matrixes of the bone begin to atrophy, and bones break very easily, or the bones begin to scrape and grate against one another—osteoporosis, it seems, is concomitant or an analogous pathology.
The condition was exacerbated by poor posture, stress-induced muscular tension, fatigue, and weakness, which diminished the structural integrity of the spine. What resulted was severe neurovascular compression, as the bones pinched the flow of the vessels, subsequently affecting the flow of blood and the communication of nervous impulses. In Western terms, we might say this was hypoxia and ischemia, and that was manifesting as systemic pain.
In Eastern Medicine, I believe it was a severe Liver and Kidney yin deficiency, with wind-damp bi introduced from excessive consumption of beer—a source of pathogenic cold. The surgery managed to unblock the impinged nerves and vessels, but the cold is still present, and causes her a lot of pain in her hip bones. Numbness and weakness of the legs, back and knees are very troublesome, and the pain is so deep-rooted that no medications can address the issue. So, what is one to do?
Her doctors want to give her steroids, which can perhaps assist.
This may cause inflammation to work against the body’s own tissues and cause tissue damage. Inflammation is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling andpain. Steroids reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals in order to minimize tissue damage.
I do not enjoy the prospect, however, as they can affect mood, digestion, liver function and kidney function. But when someone is in pain and desperate, it’s hard to be discerning when there seems to be no relief in sight.
Recently, she has opened up to my healing arts. Something that has worked effectively is auricular acupuncture. It is well known that acupuncture can induce the production of endogenous opioids like enkephalin. Additionally, tuina on the shoulders, legs and feet tend to improve circulation and her walking gets better after a session. After bodywork, we work together to use medical qi gong movements, which break up stagnation of qi and blood. Combined with breathing and meditation, she often is finding that the pain goes from unbearable to a moderate inconvenience. It is truly amazing to see a non-chemical approach have such distinct effects.
My mom is kind of hesitant to take herbs, even though most modern drugs derive from botanical chemical constituents. I did manage to get her to take Rou Gui / Cinnamon capsules. The underlying logic being that it can gently warm up the blood, unblock the lower meridians that are afflicted by cold, and warm the mingmen (kidney/ adrenal energy). I’m going to wait and see how the steroids affect her, and then, if it is safe and feasible, I would like her to investigate the herbal formula Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan.
Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan (Du Huo Ji Sheng Pian, Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang, JointsJoy™, 独活寄生片) is a Chinese herbal remedy invented over a thousand years ago to alleviate pains due to Wind and Dampness. Today it is used for rheumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic back pain, sciatica, etc.†
I will keep you all updated on the progress and positive effects of Eastern Medicine on a very trying condition that many persons endure as they age. I will continue to investigate safe methods for controlling my mother’s pain. May we find true integrative healing for those who suffer these afflictions.