Lumbago, commonly known as lower back pain, is a prevalent health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) offers various treatments for lumbago based on the different underlying causes. This article explores four primary TCM diagnoses for lumbago and the corresponding herbal and dietary treatments.

  1. Wind-dampness

Wind-dampness is a TCM diagnosis characterized by lower back pain, joint pain, and other symptoms caused by dampness and cold invading the body. Symptoms may include:

  • Chronic backache
  • Diarrhea
  • Eczema
  • Edema
  • Fever that becomes more severe in the afternoon
  • German measles
  • Headache with heavy sensations in the head
  • Itchy sores
  • Light swelling
  • Lower-back pain affecting the lower limbs
  • Lower-back pain that gets worse on rainy days
  • Pain in all the joints
  • Pain shifting around with no fixed region
  • Scant urine

To expel wind and disperse cold, and to remove dampness and relieve pain, TCM practitioners may recommend the herbal formula Du-Huo-Ji-Sheng-Tang. Incorporating foods such as peppermint, spearmint, sweet basil, celery, coconut meat, green onion, jellyfish skin, prickly ash, rice, adzuki bean, rosin, and tangerine into the diet can also help alleviate symptoms.

  1. Superficial dampness-heat

Superficial dampness-heat is a TCM diagnosis where the body accumulates dampness and heat, leading to symptoms like lower-back pain, abdominal pain, and joint pain. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Burning sensation and itch in the genitals or burning sensation in the anus
  • Congested chest
  • Diarrhea with forceful discharge of stools
  • Discharge of yellowish-red, turbid stools with a bad smell
  • Edema
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Feeling miserable
  • Jaundice
  • Low fever
  • Lower-back pain with a weak back or burning sensations
  • Pain in the joints of four limbs, with swelling and heaviness
  • Paralysis
  • Perspiration on hands and feet or the head
  • Reddish and scant urine
  • Retention of urine
  • Short streams of reddish urine
  • Swollen body of the tongue
  • Thirst
  • Yellowish color of the body

To clear heat and remove dampness, and to promote energy circulation, TCM practitioners may prescribe San-Miao-Wan. Foods like carp, celery, horse bean, jellyfish skin, Job's tears, prickly ash, hyacinth bean, oregano, sweet basil, adzuki bean, bamboo shoot, soybean sprouts, rosin, banana, bitter endive, black fungus, salt, spinach, strawberry, cucumber, leaf beet, mung bean, peppermint, and purslane can also help alleviate symptoms.

  1. Blood coagulations

Blood coagulations are a TCM diagnosis where blood stasis blocks the energy flow, leading to lower back pain and other symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding from gums
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing out blood
  • Headache
  • Jaundice
  • Lower-back pain as sharp as being cut by a knife
  • Lower-back pain that worsens with massage
  • Lower-back pain that occurs in a fixed region without moving around
  • Pain (acute) around the umbilicus resisting massage and hard spots felt by hands
  • Pain in the region between the navel and pubic hair with a feeling of hardness
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Pain in the loins as if being pierced with an awl
  • Pain in the ribs
  • Palpitations with an insecure feeling
  • Partial suppression of lochia
  • Spasm
  • Stomachache
  • Stroke
  • Swelling & congestion after eating
  • Vomiting of blood

To activate the blood and transform coagulations, and to regulate energy and relieve pain, TCM practitioners may recommend the herbal formula Shen-Tong-Zhu-Yu-Tang. Incorporating foods such as ambergris, brown sugar, chestnut, eggplant, peach, black soybean, sturgeon, sweet basil, crab, distillers' grains, papaya, and saffron into the diet can also help alleviate symptoms.

  1. Kidney yin deficiency

Kidney yin deficiency is a TCM diagnosis where the body lacks nourishing yin energy, resulting in lower back pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Cough with sputum containing blood or coughing out fresh blood
  • Dizziness
  • Dry sensations in the mouth
  • Dry throat
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling miserable and hurried, with fever
  • Hot sensations in the body
  • Hot sensations in the middle of palms or soles of feet
  • Lower-back pain that drags on and on
  • Lower-back pain that worsens with fatigue
  • Lower-back pain with weakness of the back
  • Night sweats
  • Pain in the heels
  • Retention of urine
  • Ringing in ears
  • Seminal emission with dreams
  • Sleeplessness
  • Spots in front of the eyes
  • Thirst

To tone the yin and clear fire, and to nourish the blood, TCM practitioners may prescribe the herbal formula Zuo-Gui-Yin. Foods like abalone, asparagus, chicken egg, cuttlefish, duck, duck egg, white fungus, oyster, pork, royal jelly, chestnut, chicken liver, and pork kidneys can also help alleviate symptoms.


Traditional Chinese medicine offers a holistic approach to treating lumbago by addressing the root causes of the pain. By understanding the different TCM diagnoses and incorporating the suggested herbal formulas and dietary recommendations, individuals suffering from lower back pain can find relief and improve their overall well-being. Always consult with a qualified TCM practitioner for personalized treatment and advice.