Arthritis isn’t curable but acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help manage the degree of pain and discomfort. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) foresees the condition of arthritis as a blockage of blood and Qi (energy). The external environment plays a major role impacting the flow of Qi and blood through the joints of the body. The wind, humidity and cold penetrate through the body affecting joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. In TCM, arthritis is diagnosed and treated according to these four main groups:
dampness affecting the joints: environments which are humid, tropical and wet cause joints to feel heavy, swell and become painful. An analogy can be made about how dampness affects the joints, with a wet cloth. If a cloth is wet it is heavy and full. To eliminate the heaviness and wetness the cloth needs to be strained. Once strained and dried the cloth is ready to be used again. When joints feel like a wet cloth, drying herbs and acupuncture points are used to take away the fluid retention causing obstruction, swelling, heaviness and pain felt in the joints.
heat affecting the joints: hot weather causes the joints to inflame, feel hot to touch and appear red. Here acupuncture points and herbs which are cool in nature are used to clear the heat in the joints thus reducing the inflammation and pain.
cold affecting the joints: the cold weather causes ligaments, tendons and joints to stiffen and become painful. An analogy to explain this can be; as a cold night approaches the frame work of a house tightens and vice versa when the sun rises and heats up a house, the frame work expands. Much like how the sun warms a house, warming herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion, wheat bags and infra-red heat lamps expand joints, tendons and ligaments improving blood and Qi circulation, reducing pain, tenderness and stiffness felt in the joints.
Cold affecting the joints can also be managed with ginger moxibustion (moxa). Ginger moxa involves directly placing thin slices of ginger on specific acupuncture points and burning moxa (mugwort herb) on top of the ginger. The ginger and moxa contain warming properties which penetrate into the points thus dispersing the cold in the joints.
wind affecting the joints: when wind blows it can be sudden and forceful, it can be reckless and blow things around. If arthritic pain moves from joint to joint, in TCM terms it means it’s likely that there is excess wind in the body. One day the arthritic pain is in the hip joint, the next day the wind has blown and the pain has migrated to the knee joint. Acupuncture points and Chinese herbal medicine can be used to stop the wind from blowing the arthritic pain to other joints.