Acupuncture for Pain Relief: Qi and Blood Stagnation Tips 4.94/5 (71)

Pain is the number one chief complaint in any acupuncture clinic. Why is that?

There is a traditional Chinese saying which states: “If there is free flow, there is no pain. If there is pain, there is no free flow.”

Free flow relates to movement of qi and blood, which move together. If qi and blood are not moving at optimum capacity, symptoms occur. Pain is an obvious side effect of qi and blood stagnation.

In reality, acupuncturists relate all dysfunction in the body to qi and blood stagnation in the acupuncture pathways. Therefore the goal of every acupuncturist is to move qi and blood in the acupuncture pathways.

Are you GREAT at treating pain?

In my opinion, if you want to be a GREAT acupuncturist, you have to be really good at treating pain, aka “qi and blood stagnation.”

In this blog post I’m going to share a few tricks I’ve learned over the years that have helped me gain a reputation in my community as being “really good at treating pain.”

1. Root Versus Branch

I learned the Root-Branch theory long ago as a massage therapist, long blood stagnationbefore I even began doing acupuncture.

If a patient comes in complaining of pain, and I go directly to the area of discomfort to “pound” on their sore spot, I don’t get great results.

Here’s why… Acupuncture channels run throughout the body. Qi and blood run through the channels. If you don’t address blockages in the channels, no amount of attention to the area of pain will get the results you hope for.

“The Bully “ (A Kimberly Analogy…)

A knot (qi and blood stagnation) at the area of pain is kind of like a bully who is hanging out in the yard. If my goal is to push the bully out of the neighborhood, I have to make sure all roads are clear, and there aren’t locked gates or barriers throughout the neighborhood. Once I make sure all the pathways are clear, I can coax the bully out of the yard and he can get out of town without any interruptions.

On the other hand, if I push that bully around the corner and he doesn’t have a free open pathway to get out of town, he’s going to hide out around the corner until I turn my head and then he will come back to his territory and resort to his typical pattern of meanness. 

It’s important to do a root treatment first. You’ll hear me say time and time again that balancing the graph is my FIRST goal.

AcuGraph tells us where the meridian imbalances are throughout the body. A simple root treatment fixes the overall imbalances so that my branch treatment will be more effective. Like my analogy above: If you open the passageways throughout the body BEFORE you attempt to resolve the chief complaint, you will get MUCH better long-lasting results when resolving chief complaints such as pain.

2. The Right Tools

I have a lot of tools for resolving qi and blood stagnation related to pain. I’m an acupuncturist, so I obviously use needles. Other tools I’ve been using throughout the years include cupping, gua-sha, microcurrent, auriculotherapy, and body work.

In TCM theory, chronic pain—aka chronic qi and blood stagnation—is stubborn and hard to treat. Patients present with long-term pain and limited range of motion from adhesions. When palpating these areas you will feel grizzly, crunchy, knot-like tissue in the muscle and around the joint. It takes all the tools listed above to resolve chronic qi and blood stagnation, plus a lot of deep tissue massage!

I have a new, absolutely wonderful, favorite tool for chronic qi and blood stagnation that I am now using in my clinic. It has literally been a game changer. Patients are getting better twice as fast. Referrals just keep pouring in.

NOTE: Patients who get relief from chronic pain are your best referral source ever. Imagine the scenario… They are so grateful you have helped resolve the pain they have been experiencing for SOOOO LONG, they want to shout it to the world!

The tool I’m using is called the Rapid Release.

blood stagnation

Vibrational therapy is the mechanism behind how it works. I love it, and patients do too!

There’s all kinds of science behind the Rapid Release but here’s the simple analysis. The higher-frequency waves emitted from the device also trigger a neurological response that quickly relaxes muscles to resolve pain and muscle spasms in soft-tissue related conditions. Rapid Release runs at a frequency of about 150 Hz, generating compression waves combined with tiny strokes of pressure.

I could go on and on about how the device has expedited the results in my clinic. In fact, my research and experience turned into a published book.

You can read more about it here >>

I also created a webinar called How to be Great at Stopping Pain that focuses on using vibrational therapy to quickly, and effectively resolve chronic pain conditions.

You can watch it here >>

3. All Qi and Blood Stagnation are NOT Created Equal

Qi and Blood Stagnation do not all present the same way. Sometimes there is too much qi and blood in an area, which stops energy from moving. Other times there isn’t enough qi and blood in the acupuncture channel, which also stops energy from moving.

When we do an electrical diagnosis through digital meridian imaging, we recognize excess or deficiency in a channel. This simple root treatment to balance the meridians is often enough to get energy flowing where it needs to go. But sometimes, you have go go deeper with your root treatment and figure out WHY acupuncture channels continue to present as excess or deficient.

Pain symptoms can differ in presentation. Sometimes the patient has constant sharp shooting pain, sometimes pain is dull in nature comes and goes, sometimes it’s always in one spot, other times it wanders from place to place. Understanding the different types of pain will help you to choose the right treatment methods.

Once you recognize WHY the blood stagnation is occurring int he body, then supplementing your treatment with the proper TCM herbal formula, will take your treatment to the next level.  If you are an herbalist and have studied Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, you will understand TCM patterns. Finding the underlying TCM pattern is key for choosing a traditional Chinese herbal formula.

NOTE: I’d like to give a shout out to Kan Herbs! They do an amazing job of taking classical Chinese herbal formulas and modifying them to fit the presentation of our modern day clients. I’ve gotten to know the herbalists on their team over the years at the many acupuncture symposiums I attend. Their products can be found at Lhasa and Crane Herb as well. 

Here’s a list of my favorite go-to formulas. I keep an abundance  of each formula on my shelf so that I am ready for any pain patient who comes through the clinic.

Meridian Passage: 

  • TCM Pattern: Classic Qi and Blood Stagnation
  • Analysis: Qi and blood are not moving causing stagnation or stasis of blood in the channels. This formula is a big blood mover.
  • Symptoms: Stabbing pain, blockages in the meridians—shoulder pain, upper or lower back pain, sore legs. This formula addresses the injury. Lumps, masses, immobile masses.

NOTE: I use this formula the MOST. Sometimes I begin with this formula for a couple of weeks to resolve the BIG qi and blood stagnation while I am finding the underlying pattern over time. Also sometimes I include this formula with other formulas. 

Meridian Circulation:

  • TCM Patterns: Classic Qi and Blood Stagnation PLUS Wind, Cold, Damp Bi Syndrome; or Liver and Kidney Deficiency; or Qi and Blood Deficiency
  • Analysis: Because the body is deficient, wind, cold and damp falls into the weak areas causing blood stagnation. This formula clears the wind, cold and damp in the joints so that blood can move.
  • Symptoms: Occasional soreness, achiness, numbness, cramps, swelling—worse with cold weather. Occasional flexibility problems. Specific for someone with an underlying deficiency.

NOTE: This formula is for the patient who complains of dull aching pain in the joints. I use this formula a lot for patients with fibromyalgia, overweight, and/or depression. When I palpate this patient, the channels feel thick, heavy, and overall sluggish in nature. 

Meridian Comfort:

  • TCM Patterns: Everything listed in Meridian Circulation PLUS weak immune system.
  • Analysis: When the exterior levels related to Wei Qi and Nutritive Qi are weak, the exterior is vulnerable and the interior is defensive. This formula strengthens the exterior levels of qi.
  • Symptoms: Meridian Circulation symptoms with slow healing after a traumatic injury or autoimmune system disorders.

NOTE: This formula is great for patients with autoimmune disorders. For these patients strengthening the wei qi is key component to resolve before getting pain relief. 

Loosen Solution:

  • TCM Patterns: Deep Internal Wind Heat, Blood Deficiency, Yin Deficiency, Heart Qi Deficiency, and Liver Qi Deficiency.
  • Analysis: This formula is great for muscle cramps from yin deficiency. It clears heat, clears wind, regulates qi, tonifies moisture, tonifies blood, regulates the Liver and Heart, clears the senses, calms the mind, relaxes the muscles, soothes the nerves.
  • Symptoms: Muscle spasms, cramps, agitation, frustration, irritability, insomnia, mental restlessness, and dizziness.

Note: This formula is great for the patient has who has blood deficiency symptoms and is very weak and deficient in nature. They typically complain of random cramping that comes and goes. This is classic for the patient who doesn’t have enough blood therefore the small amount of qi and blood which they do have in their channels becomes stagnant. I don’t typically use the Rapid Release to move blood in this patient. The formula alone with basic acupuncture treatment, and maybe some gentle massage is wonderful. 

Great Mender:

  • TCM Patterns: Blood Stagnation with heat from Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency.
  • Analysis: This formula nourishes the liver to move qi and blood throughout the body to create healthy tendons and sinew; nourishes the heart and liver to create healthy blood flow throughout the body, strengthens tissues such as tendons, sinews, bones and blood  vessels. .
  • Symptoms: Healing after an injury or surgery, great marital arts formula.

Note: This formula is great for patients who are getting a little older–still like to play golf or tennis or run, etc.–and continue to re-injure themselves because they won’t quit and give their body time to heal. They just don’t heal as easily as they used to. The underlying cause is yin deficiency. So, if I nourish their yin, they heal faster. 

Acupuncture by itself is GOOD. It works well. That’s why it’s been around for more than 4000 years. If you want to be the BEST practitioner around, you’ll want to embrace your role as a 21st century acupuncturist. The tools are abundant. Acupuncture, plus modern technology, and modern, modified traditional Chinese herbal formulas are a winning combination.

My Preferred Tool: Rapid Release 

rapid release

If you treat pain, the Rapid Release will help you move blood and qi faster and more effectively to help your patients get the results that will keep them coming back.

Need some more information? Register for my free webinar, How to be Great at Stopping Pain, to see the Rapid Release in action, and learn more about its effectiveness for treating chronic blood and qi stagnation!

Register for my free Rapid Release webinar >>

Don’t hesitate to call me at 208.846.8448, or email me at if you have any questions! I’d love to talk!

blood stagnation

To your Success,


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Dr. Kimberly Thompson, DACM, L.Ac.

Dr. Kimberly Thompson, DACM, L.Ac. is a US licensed acupuncturist in the state of Idaho and certified in the treatment of acupuncture, Oriental medicine and Chinese herbology by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Kimberly wears multiple hats in the acupuncture community. She owns her private clinic, Meridian Family Acupuncture. She has spent the last 10 years working for Miridia Technology as an acupuncture Research Analyst–where she helps plan, develop, and integrate modern diagnostic and treatment tools for the ever-evolving scientific world of acupuncture. Kimberly is a world-renown teacher, blogger, columnist, and mentor in the acupuncture community.

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