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A Holistic Approach to Arthritis

Do you want to live a life free of arthritis and the painful, stiff, and swollen joints that come with it? Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and a healthy diet can help you achieve a pain free life and a healthier you.

What is arthritis?

People often associate the word arthritis with pain in the joints, sometimes accompanied by stiffness, swelling and heat; however, the word, arthritis, simply means joint inflammation. The Western medical community uses the term, arthritis, to describe rheumatic conditions, as well as, conditions that involve swollen, painful, and stiff joints. In Western medicine the most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and Juvenile arthritis. Eastern medicine, on the other hand, addresses conditions involving swollen, painful, and stiff joints from a different perspective.Traditional Chinese medicine believes that “Bi syndrome”, the condition that is congruent with arthritis, manifest as pain, soreness, and stiffness in the tendons and joints, and is caused by the invasion of external pathogenic factors of Wind, Cold, Heat, and Dampness.

What are the most common forms of arthritis?

In Western medicine, the most common forms of arthritis are Rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammatory disease that affects the body’s joints and can also damage certain organs in the body. It is thought to be the result of an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue. Interestingly, it affects both young and older adults. Rheumatoid arthritis is considered the most severe type of arthritis and results in painful, stiff, and deformed joints throughout the body.

Osteoarthritis, involves the breakdown and gradual loss of protective cartilage and bone within the joint, resulting in pain and stiffness. The specific causes for Osteoarthritis are unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of age, wear and tear on the joints and molecular events. (CDC, 2012)  Although, not as common as the rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) affects children under the age of 18 years and is more prevalent in girls than in boys.

How does Western medicine treat arthritis?

In Western medicine, rheumatoid arthritis is considered to be an autoimmune disease. External factors such as food allergies, lifestyle factors, and microorganisms are thought to contribute to the arthritic conditions. Western physicians treat RA with exercise, rest, and number of medications, that include anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), indomethacin, ibuprofen, gold compounds, corticosteroids, and immuno-suppressive drugs.

Although not considered as severe as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis produces a great deal of pain for those suffering from the break down of cartilage between the bones. According to the staff at the Mayo Clinic (2012), Acetaminophen, (NSAIDs), narcotics, cortisone shots, lubrication injections, and realigning the bones are acceptable treatments for this condition.

Western medicine addresses the symptoms of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis with major drugs and surgeries. For many sufferers, these remedies help to reduce the painful symptoms associated with arthritis; however, almost all of the medications can cause a plethora of negative side effects that discourage patients from continuing treatment. Traditional Chinese medicine, on the other hand, addresses the root causes of arthritis and uses a holistic approach to ride the body of these negative forces.

Traditional Chinese Medicine ( TCM) & arthritis:

Traditional Chinese medicine believes that both internal and external factors cause arthritis, and by clearing the body of theses factors, arthritis can be eliminated. Wei Lui, TCMD,MPH,LAC and Changzhen Gong, PhD, MS, with The Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM), reports that, “in traditional Chinese medicine, the condition that is congruent with arthritis is called ‘Bi syndrome’–which manifest as pain, soreness, or numbness of muscles, tendons and joints”. Chinese Medicine believes that pathogenic factors (Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat) cause Bi syndrome.

Each pattern (Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat) is characterized by differentiating symptoms. With the Wind Bi pattern, the arthritis pain moves throughout the body, instead of affecting certain joints. In the case of the Wind Bi pattern, the pain and soreness travels from joint to joint, limiting the joints ability to move. The Cold Bi pattern is associated with swollen joints that feel cold to the touch, early morning stiffness, and typically follows changes in weather. The Damp Bi pattern is typically characterized  by pain and swelling in the muscles and joints, coinciding with a heavy, numbness in the limbs, and have a fixed location that is aggravated by damp weather. Finally, the Heat Bi pattern can be a result of any of the three patterns already mentioned. It presents with severe pain and hot-swollen joints. (Lui, 2012)

How does Traditional Chinese medicine treat arthritis?

Traditional Chinese medicine treats arthritis by addressing the combination of patterns (Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat). TCM uses acupuncture, chinese herbs, and diet to expel the pathogenic factors in the body, that are causing qi and blood stagnation in the joints, sinews, and bone.

How can acupuncture help with arthritis?

For a person with arthritis, acupuncture addresses multiple facets of the disease. Acupuncture moves qi and blood providing lubrication and nourishment to the joints and bone, and forces the pathogenic factors to leave the body. Acupuncture also addresses the pain and soreness that accompany arthritis. In an article in Arthritis Today, Tim Rhudy, a licensed acupuncturist in the department of pain management at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, is quoted as saying that, “acupuncture diminishes pain by ‘untying muscular straitjackets — releasing tight, spasmed, shortened muscles to their resting state.’ It also helps regulate the body’s nervous system, which  can stimulate the release of natural pain-fighting endorphins.” Besides helping with the pain of arthritis, acupuncture also treats the root causes of the disease as well. The benefit of acupuncture over that of Western medical treatments, is that acupuncture has no side affects and costs considerably less than expensive arthritic drugs.

How do herbs and diet affect arthritis?

Acupuncturist and Holistic practitioners also prescribe Chinese herbs and teas and special diets for patients suffering with arthritis. Ancient Chinese herbs and herbal teas are specific herbs or a mixture of herbs specifically chosen for their ability to expel Wind, Cold, Damp, and Heat, and to regulate the imbalances that are affecting the joints and bone. In place of expensive drugs, with sometimes horrible and potentially deadly side affects that squash the immune system and block the body from preforming the way it should, Chinese herbs and herbal teas expel the causes and nourish the body without negative side affects.

Along with herbs and herbal teas, practitioners also educate patients about certain foods that contribute and possibly cause arthritis and it’s symptoms. An article in Living magazine (2011), reports that, “[eating foods that are rich in alkaloids, such as potatoes, tomatoes,  paprika, eggplants, and hot and sweet peppers]… increase cholinesterase, which inhibits glycoalkaloids and steroids…[creating] inflammation and pain.” Alkaloids should be avoided by patients with arthritis. Gluten is also responsible for arthritic flare-ups. Acupunctures and Holistic practitioners often prescribe that patients with arthritis avoid any foods containing gluten, such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats. It is also important to know that processed foods promote inflammation and should always be avoided by people with arthritis.

How many people suffer with arthritis in the United States?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2012) reports that , “50 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis (just over 1 in 5 adults).” They also report that, “an estimated 294,000 children under the age 18 have some form of arthritis or rheumatic condition, this represents approximately 1 in every 250 children”. In the United States, arthritis is the most common cause of disability and greatly affects a person’s ability to work. According to the CDC, “earnings losses (indirect costs) for arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in 2003 were 47 billion dollars…and the total cost attributed to arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States was 128 billion dollars.”

Arthritis is a debilitating and costly disease. It is responsible for more disability claims than any other disease in the United states. However, with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, exercise and comprehensive holistic treatment, arthritis can be expelled from the body and the pain and soreness that accompanies this disease can be obliterated. It is possible to be free of the pain, stiffness, fatigue, and soreness that is part of having arthritis.

Please visit our office:

Lotus Acupuncture and Holistic Health Clinic

Live a life free of arthritis and pain. 

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