Focus on the whole to beat winter’s aches

Just as the arrival of winter means several months of cold, wet weather, for many it also marks the return of body aches and pains. In Chinese medicine, this is referred to as Dampness Syndrome—a sort of general malaise that often settles in the muscles and fascia (connective tissue).

In addition to achiness, Dampness Syndrome can make you feel tired, sluggish and foggy-headed. While retreating southward until April may be just what the doctor ordered, it isn’t a practical solution for most of us. Fortunately, there are other things we can do to ensure that winter aches don’t become a holiday tradition. In the case of Dampness Syndrome, weather is obviously a prime issue. To keep it from messing with your health, start by wearing natural fibres, particularly wool, and keeping your head covered and your whole body warm.

In terms of digestion and nutrition, limiting your intake of dairy products, processed grains and sugary foods (what I call “damp-producing” foods) can alleviate aches, pains and sluggishness. Also, increasing your consumption of warm foods, both in terms of temperature and spice (in moderation), helps reduce symptoms.

Traditional therapies such as acupuncture and moxibustion (a heat therapy that involves the burning of the Chinese herb ai ye, or mugwort) help warm the body, relieve pain and improve circulation. Additionally, Chinese herbal medicines formulated to suit your particular constitution can be taken throughout the winter months to regulate the organs.  Unlike conventional Western medicine, which tends to suppress symptoms through specific prescriptions, Chinese medicine strives to harmonize your body’s natural functions and thereby stimulate its innate healing capacities. You may just have sore knees, but that pain indicates a broader imbalance in the body.

By focusing on the whole, rather than the parts, your general health will improve.


Dr. Brigitte Tetrault is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine at Courtenay Healing Centre. She can be reached at 250-338-2866 or

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...