Three Stages Of Injury

Stage 1- Acute


Stage 1 of injury is the beginning stage of an injury. It begins from the moment of the injury and usually lasts from one day to a week.


This stage is characterized by Inflammation. Inflammation has four elements:

  1. Swelling
  2. Redness
  3. Pain
  4. Heat.


According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), swelling is explained as the slowing down of the body's qi (vital life force energy), blood and other body fluids.


The force of an injury will often rupture capillaries and other blood vessels causing a “black and blue” swelling.


Injuries are also a shock to the body and mind. This shock also disrupts the flow of qi and blood.


To treat Stage 1 injuries, TCM uses the following treatment principles:


  • Stop Pain

  • Reduce Swelling

  • Promote flow of Qi and Blood

  • Clear Heat

  • Calm the Mind.


Therapies include:


  • Acupuncture- to regulate the flow of qi and blood to assist the body's innate healing mechanisms.

  • Poultices- finely ground herbs mixed with a medium like green tea, egg whites or petroleum jelly and placed over injured area to assist the healing process.

  • Chinese Herbs- to assist the healing process from the inside-out.

  • Plaster- commercially produced herbal medicated patch which sticks to injured area to promote healing.

  • Liniments- herbs extracted in alcohol or oil medium which is massaged into injured area.

  • Qi Gong- gentle exercise that combines movement, breath and posture to strengthen the body and increase the range of motion of injured tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles.

  • Tui Na Massage- to relax the tendon and ligaments, increase local qi and blood stagnation, and promote increased range of motion.



Stage 2- Sub-Acute


Stage 2 usually begins after the first week after the initial injury and may last up to approximately three weeks. At this stage of injury healing, a lot of the inflammation has decreased. Pain and swelling have also reduced if the injury has been properly treated during the first stage of injury.


During Stage 2 of injury, damaged tissues, muscles, tendons, joints and other structures in the body are healing. The inflammation that protected the tissues has decreased and the injury can begin to be treated more aggressively by a health practitioner.


TCM works to address the residual swelling, decreased qi and blood circulation, repair damage to the tendons, muscles, ligament and joints and even nodules that may have popped up from the bumps and bruises.


To treat Stage 2 of injury, TCM uses the principles of:


  • Reducing Swelling

  • Increase Circulation of Qi and Blood

  • Relax the Tendons and Ligaments

  • Strengthen and Mend the Bones

  • Soften Nodules.


Therapies include:


  • Acupuncture

  • Chinese Herbs

  • Herbal Soaks- injured area is immersed in warmed herbs decocted in water or towels are soaked in the herbs an places over injured area.

  • Poultices

  • Plaster.

  • Liniment

  • Qi Gong

  • Tui Na Massage



Stage 3- Chronic Stage


Stages of injury begins approximately one month after the initial injury. At this stage, swelling and inflammation are gone, but pain and stiffness may still present itself.


A muscle strain may be close to complete healing at this point on because muscles have a rich blood-supply. Blood carries the necessary nutrients for quick healing of muscles, tissues and other structures in the body. Muscle strains usually only take a few weeks to heal.


Tendon and Ligaments can heal over the course of a few months because they do not have as rich a blood supply as the muscles.


At this stage, the pain and stiffness may also be accompanied by small nodules that can be felt on the muscles and other tissues. This is an accumulation of cellular waste and fluids that were part of the healing process that have not been properly eliminated from the body.


There is an old saying, “Where qi is not flowing, there is pain.”  In TCM, the pain and stiffness after an injury is due to the decreased qi and blood circulation. Due to qi and blood stagnation, “cold” and “dampness” can also invade the injured area. This cold and dampness will cause pain to be worse on cold and rainy days. This is the condition when someone complains that their “knee always tells them when it going to rain.”


According to TCM, the treatment principle at Stage 3 of an injury is to:


  • Regulate Qi and Blood

  • Warm the Cold

  • Drain Damp

  • Move Qi and Blood

  • Stop Pain

  • Relax Tendons, Ligaments and Muscles

  • Strengthen Qi and Blood


Treatment includes:


  • Acupuncture

  • Moxibustion- Dried ground leaves of the mugwort plant which are burned over the injured area and Acupuncture points. The heat from the moxa warms the qi and promotes the flow of qi, blood and body fluids.

  • Liniments

  • Tui Na massage

  • Herbal Soaks

  • Plasters and Poultices

  • Qi gong Exercise

Back to Conditions Treated

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