Trapped underwater – kidney yang deficiency, cold & chronic pain


In the last installment of this series of articles, let us to turn to the all-important kidney yang. If you’ve missed them, you may want to check out some earlier articles in this series, such as this one about terror and the Chinese medicine heart, or this one about the liver and depression.

As we discussed last time, the kidney yin in Chinese Medicine controls water metabolism, bone and hair health, and is responsible for nourishing the organs with cooling fluid. The Kidney yang, as you may imagine, has to do with warming processes. Specifically the kidney yang is the root of all warmth in the entire body, and all motive force ultimately flows from it.

The kidney stores various kinds of life essence; qualities that we would think of as genetic are associated with the kidney, as well as the essence in evolved in reproduction and sexual health. Urinary health and the ability to control urination properly are governed by the kidney system. Lastly, but most importantly, there is an area between the two kidneys, known as the gate of life, where our most fundamental life essence is stored. This is the kind of essence that you are born with, and when it is gone, your life ends.

As far as our emotional lives are concerned, the kidney yang gives us the will to create and bring new things into being.

This is particularly true of things that take a long time. It also responsible for our faith in ourselves and our eventual success, despite setbacks or adverse circumstances. As the kidney yin allows us to rest in the knowledge that we are part of something greater, the yang is our belief that we are something greater. A certain kind of hope therefore emerges from the kidney yang; the even if we are not where we want to be now, we can get there with enough hard work.

The physical symptoms of damaged kidney yang are usually associated with aging, but that is not the only way that damage can occur.

Any intense ordeal can potentially injure the kidney yang, especially if that ordeal involves exposure to cold. Generally such an ordeal will either be life-threatening (I’m thinking of a patient who nearly died of frostbite after a snowmobile accident) or sustained over a very long period of time (imprisonment for example). Symptoms can include; sore and weak back and knees, cold feelings around the body, aversion to cold, weak lower limbs, edema, fatigue, clear copious urine, poor appetite, loose stools, various sexual health issues, and fertility problems.

Many kinds of chronic pain are associated with kidney yang damage, as well as chronic fatigue-type conditions.

Emotionally, symptoms are similarly long-term. The kind of depression that results from impaired kidney yang tends to be many years in the making, and often begins in childhood. The feeling of this depression is like being trapped under water, and people often report feeling cold, lethargic, and unable to imagine feeling any other way. Damaged kidney yang can interfere with a person’s ability to manifest their will, both in visualizing future outcomes that they desire, and in acting upon it.

Above all, there is a certain type of hopelessness that develops out of this pattern, and that hopelessness seeps into the person’s entire life.

Treating these issues is not a quick process. The hopelessness itself needs to be addressed, because otherwise it becomes a block to treatment. This is one place where seeing a talk therapist is often required in conjunction with Chinese Medicine, if the person’s belief in themselves has become too damaged to participate in treatment fully.

However, once treatment develops enough momentum symptoms begin to resolve.

Warming and supplementing yang is the way to go for these patients, and herbs and needling techniques that move stagnant water are often indicated as well. One excellent formula for this condition in Shen Qi Wan (pronounced shen chii wahn), which has been prescribed as a tonic for the aging, among other things, for thousands of years.

Thank you for reading this article, and perhaps the entire series. My intention in writing these posts has been to demystify Chinese medicine, and allow people to see themselves or their loved ones in these patterns.

I’ve included treatment strategies because I want to make it clear that all manner of disease can be treated, even those which other kinds of medicine have written off as too strange or intractable to resolve. Our bodies all want to return to better health, and when given the correct stimulus they will almost always do so.

If you have seen yourself in any of these articles, or you just want to come chat, feel free to come see me any time.

Written by Rowan Everard

I discovered Chinese medicine shortly after moving to Portland to complete my undergraduate studies. I began my journey as a patient, but after several years of being an increasingly curious patient I found myself drawn into the formal study of this medicine. In Chinese medicine, I found tools that helped me to transform myself, and which I have seen lead to dramatic positive shifts in patients.