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TCM Local Applications for Cancer Pain Management

Cancer pain takes many forms. It may be caused when a tumor presses on bone, nerves or organs. In addition, certain painful conditions are due to cancer treatment including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. Sometimes patients may experience headaches and muscle pain that has nothing to do with the illness or treatment. According to TCM understanding, cancer pain can be classified in two major categories.

1. Obstructive pain: this is due to one or several evils attacking an organ or meridian leading to sluggish flows of qi (vital energy) or blood in the region. The pain is usually sharp, relatively localized, and with certain characterisitics. See the "nature of pain". TCM therapies will aim at removing the stagnation so as to resume smooth circulation.
2. Deficient pain: due to the progressive exhaustion of cancerous tissues, the other healthy tissues inside the body generally lack nutrient supply for normal functioning. This always causes dull pain that occurs gradually but persistently and relatively less localized. TCM therapies will aim at nourishing the organs and meridians as well as replenishing blood and qi.

TCM local remedies are mainly targeted on obstructive type of pain. The selected drugs are mostly chosen from insects, worms, living animal parts or toxic substances; TCM holds that these categories can activate blood and qi, removing stasis and coldness, warming meridians and relieving pain. In addition, certain anti-cancer herbs, or herbs with warming and stimulant properties are added to the prescriptions to have more broaden effects. Common ingredients are:

Resinous secretion
Common Monkshood mother root
Kusnnezoff Monkshood root
Corydalis Rhizome

chan su Dried toad venom Venenum Bufonis
di long Earthworms Lumbricus
wu gong Centipede Scolopendra
quan jie Scorpion Scorpio
tu bie chong Ground beetles Eupolyhpaga seu Steleophaga
xiong huang Realgar Realgar
bing pian Borneol Borneolum Syntheticum
she xiang Musk Moschus
ru xiang Frankincense Olibanum
mo yao Myrrh Resina Commiphorae Myrrhae
xue jie Resinous secretion Resina Draconis
chuan wu Common Monkshood mother root Radix Aconiti
cao wu Kusnnezoff Monkshood root Radix Aconiti Kusnezoffii
ma qian zhi Nux vomica Semen Strychni
bai qu cai Greater Celandine Herb Herba Chelidonii
yan hu suo Corydalis Rhizome Rhizoma Corydalis
xi xin Manchurian wildginger Herba Asari

In addition to application on painful areas, these drugs are also applied to specific acupoints on the trunk. It is said that this can promote meridian flow to obtain a general regulating effect, which readjusts neural sensitivity to lower the threshold of pain. Some of the selected acupoints are:

Origin of pain Selected acupoints
Nasopharyngeal cancer Da-zhui, feng-chi, fei-shu, shen-que
Esophagus cancer Ge-shu, shen-que,
Lung or skin cancer Fei-shu, ru-gen, shen-que
Liver cancer Qi-men, gan-shu
Gall bladder cancer Dan-shu
Stomach cancer Wei-shu, zhong-wen, shen-que
Intestinal cancer Da-chang-shu, shen-que
Pancreatic cancer Pi-shu, shen-que,
Cervical cancer Shen-que, shen-shu
Bladder cancer Shen-shu, pang-guang-shu, shen-que

Shen-que (umbicius) is an important acupoint in TCM local application.

It is said that pain alleviation can be achieved in a short time, last for relatively longer period and have few side effects.