Knee Pain Causes and Chinese Medical Diagnosis
There are many causes of knee pain according to Chinese medicine. The most obvious cause of knee pain is when one hurts the knee in an injury or traumatic accident. However, many people find that they develop knee pain and/or stiffness without experiencing an injury; simply walking or bending causes a sharp twinge, or their knees begin to ache for no apparent reason. Even more disturbing, the knees may begin to simply give-out from under a person with no warning. Alarmingly, these symptoms appear to accelerate as we age.
Learn techniques for applying acupressure linked here!
In Chinese medicine, the knees are governed by the Kidney energetic organ system; therefore, Kidney Deficiency is implied with all knee problems. Even injuries to the knee implicate the Kidney energetic system for a couple of reasons:
- Kidney Deficiency may have made the knees more susceptible to injury in the first place
- The Kidney energetic organ system must be re-enforced for knees to fully heal following an injury
Kidney Yin Deficiency
Knee pain at night is one indication of Yin Deficient-type knee pain as symptoms worsen at night time with Yin Deficiency. Other symptoms that would imply Kidney Yin Deficiency would include afternoon-night sweats, incessant thirst, dry skin and brittle hair. Consider our organic Yin Valley formula
Knees may seem cold to the touch with Yang Deficiency and symptoms may worsen in cold temperatures and improve with the application of heat to the knees. Knee weakness or knees that give-way under the weight of the body suggest a combination of Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang Deficiencies. Consider our organic Yin Valley formula with our organic Ancestor Treasure Kidney Yang tonic herb formula
Knee Pain from No Cause
Our vital Essence that is stored in the Kidneys is consumed as we age and we can become more susceptible to Kidney Deficiency resulting in aches and pains. We can also have a genetic pre-disposition to Kidney Deficiency lacking abundant Ancestoral Qi which can make us vulnerable to knee issues at any age.
According to Chinese medical theory, Blood and Qi Stagnation must be present for pain to develop. From the onset of an injury it is important to manage trauma correctly and break up Blood and Qi Stagnation so that arthritis and long-term stiffness do not develop. Natural therapies for sports injuries and traumas detailed-link here!
Tendon, ligament, and meniscal tears occur when the tenacious collagen that makes up these taught, stretchy structures is violently impacted. Again, it is important to manage injuries correctly from Day-1 so that these structures have fresh, nourishing Blood bathing them so that they can heal correctly. Tendons attach the bones to the muscles and sometimes become inflamed and cause sudden sharp knee pain when walking or bending.
Knee surgery or setting a bone due to a fracture would be considered trauma; following surgery, during long-term recovery, it is equally important to use the correct natural therapies to heal quickly and correctly.
Related Article: Treating Trauma and Sports Injuries Correctly with Chinese Medicine
Six primary acupuncture channels traverse the knees and acupressure points can be chosen by where these meridians are located making for an effective acupressure treatment.
Pain at the Back of the Knee
Pain on the Medial Inside of the Knee
The Liver and Spleen channels run medial to the knee. Apply the Earth Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Spleen 9 and to Acupressure Point Spleen 10, and apply the Wood Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Liver 3
Pain on the Lateral Outside of the Knee
The Stomach and Gallbladder channels run down the side of the leg next to the knee. Apply the Wood Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Gallbladder 40 and apply the Earth Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Stomach 36
- Internal Dampness Wet Weather or Humid Conditions Causing Pain
- Arthritis in Knee Causing Pain
- Anti-inflammatory Diet for Knee Pain
Li J, Li YX, Luo LJ, et al. The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis: An overview of systematic reviews. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(28):e16301. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000016301
Sun N, Tu JF, Lin LL, et al. Correlation between acupuncture dose and effectiveness in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Acupunct Med. 2019;37(5):261‐267. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2017-011608
Chen HY, Liu NY. Analgesic Effect of Sinew Acupuncture for Patients with Soft-Tissue Injuries: A Pilot Trial. Chin J Integr Med. 2019;25(8):613‐616. doi:10.1007/s11655-019-3061-3
Ramlall Y, Andrion JJD, Cameron HU, Sawhney M. Examining pain before and after primary total knee replacement (TKR): A retrospective chart review. Int J Orthop Trauma Nurs. 2019;34:43‐47. doi:10.1016/j.ijotn.2019.04.001
Cheung DST, Yeung WF, Suen LK, et al. Self-administered acupressure for knee osteoarthritis in middle-aged and older adults: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Acupunct Med. 2020;38(2):75‐85. doi:10.1177/0964528419883269
Dr. Browne's Shared Insights and Experiences
Countless patients have come to me over the decades hoping to avoid knee surgery because of chronic knee pain due to trauma or from unknown origins. The desire to avoid this incredibly invasive surgery is understandable as it causes more trauma, scar tissue, and long-term adverse reactions. When I started practicing, knee replacements only had a 10-year life-span expectancy. Now, a patient may get 30 years of functional use from a knee replacement. This means that a 50 year-old may need another knee replacement at 80; not a great age for a radical surgery! If surgery is inevitable, our clinical goal is typically to postpone the procedure until around age 64; this way, patients won't likely require another surgery during their lifetime.
90% of my pre-surgical patients are able to gain greater mobility and 20-100% pain reduction with regular occasional acupuncture, self-applied acupressure, topical therapies, and internal herbal therapies. However, patients that show up with pain after knee surgery have a more difficult time achieving pain relief. With scar tissue blocking the flow of Qi and Blood we may only average 10-40% pain reduction. This being said, a 20 or 30% decrease in pain can increase the quality of life substantially for those suffering.