Healing Arthritis & Joint Pain with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Arthritis is a general term for a number of conditions that include painful, swollen and/or stiff joints. Affecting more than six and a half million people in the U.S., the two most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease, and osteoarthritis, which is an age-related degeneration of joints. An estimated 15% of people in the South Africa are afflicted with osteoarthritis.


Arthritis in Western (Allopathic) Medicine

Western medicine describes more than one hundred forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, infectious arthritis, chemically-induced arthritis, temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and gout. The most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:



Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease and osteoarthrosis, is a condition once thought to be due to simple wear and tear of joint cartilage. The condition is now understood to be a complex process involving two components, one mechanical (wearing away) and the other biological (abnormal joint biology). Osteoarthritis is characterized by the deterioration of normal surfaces of movable synovial joints. The joints are covered with a smooth layer of cartilage.When cartilage is worn thin - typically in weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, feet, back, fingers and hands - the result is pain and loss of function. As the disease progresses, crevices and bone spurs (osteophytes) may develop, increasing pain and decreasing mobility.


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most severe type of inflammatory joint disease. It is two to three times more common in women than in men and generally strikes between the ages of 20 and 50. Unlike osteoarthritis, which results from wear and tear, the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. However, it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder wherein the body's immune system attacks the tissue (synovium) lining the joints. As the most debilitating of all forms, rheumatoid arthritis causes joints to ache and throb and eventually become deformed. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as corticosteroids and immuno-suppressive drugs are the most common treatments used in western medicine. However, long-term use of these medications can produce side effects such as stomach irritation, gastritis and ulcers.


Arthritis in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) categorizes arthritis as a blockage in the smooth flow of Body Energy and blood throughout the energetic pathways in the body. The presence of a blockage is indicated by pain and reduced range of motion. Conditions such as arthritis are therefore called "painful obstruction syndromes" in Chinese medicine, and are commonly treated by acupuncturists. As an impediment that affects the bones and joints, arthritis is called "bi syndrome" or "bone bi" in TCM. Bi syndrome manifests as pain, soreness or numbness of muscles, tendons and joints The immediate cause of bi syndromes is environmental - the result of the body being "invaded" by the climatological factors of wind, cold, heat and/or dampness, which are said to penetrate the body's defenses and lodge in the muscles, tendons and joints. Long-term bi syndrome can lead to deformities of the bones and joints.


Treating Arthritis with Acupuncture

All joint pain occurs on the external aspect of the body, along the acupuncture channels. However, the condition is always accompanied by a deeper, systemic imbalance within the body. In TCM, it is believed that for treatment to be effective, both the manifestation (i.e. joint pain) and the root cause need to be treated. Acupuncture is used to restore harmony to the body, and thereby correct the imbalance. If the systemic imbalance is not too severe and/or the patient is strong, acupuncture may offer a cure. However, if the arthritic process is very deep-rooted, acupuncture may only be able to offer pain relief and help prevent further progression of the disease. In any case, the patient is able to avoid the side effects of western medical treatments.

Modern scientific research has revealed that two naturally occurring hormones provide relief from arthritis: endorphins (natural pain-killing hormones produced in the brain) and adrenalcorticotropin (an anti-inflammatory hormone). Acupuncture can be effective in stimulating the production of both endorphins and adrenalcorticotropin. As an initial treatment, acupuncture needles are used to trigger the body to heal itself by producing these hormones. It is then used on an ongoing basis to prevent the reoccurrence of arthritis.






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