Arthritis is considered a chronic inflammation of the joints that affects the lives of an estimated 70 million Americans.
Symptoms include pain, swelling, limited range of motion, redness, and warmth around the joints.
There are several different kinds of arthritis, but generally, osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage from the wear and tear of the aging process.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects the lining of the joints, which can cause bone erosion and joint deformity.
Arthritis in Chinese Medicine
Arthritis is considered a Bi (pronounced bee) syndrome in Chinese medicine, which simply means that a blockage of energy or blood in your energetic pathways is causing your pain.
This blockage is caused by external pathogens (or causes of illness) that act a little bit like bad weather in your body. These pathogens can include wind, cold, dampness, or heat, and can affect your internal organs, bones, muscles, or tendons.
With arthritis, they affect your joints.
Bi syndromes tend to occur because you’re depleted in some way.
Some common causes include poor diet, bad digestion, fatigue, working too hard, or stress.
When you’re run down or depleted, your body’s protective mechanism that fights off pathogens is also depleted. This allows those pathogens to enter and cause all kinds of trouble.
The nature of your symptoms offers clues as to what kind of pathogens are causing your arthritis.
- Arthritis caused by a wind pathogen moves around from joint to joint and tends to affect the upper parts of your body.
- Cold pain tends to be pretty severe, is worse in cold weather, and your joints may actually feel cool to the touch.
- Dampness is characterized by fixed pain that feels achy and heavy and can be accompanied by numbness and/or swelling.
- Red, swollen, warm, and painful joints are associated with heat. You may feel feverish when you have a heat pathogen, and your pain tends to flare up in the warm weather.
Unfortunately, it’s possible that more than one pathogen at a time can be causing your joint pain.
For example, you may have arthritis from a combination of wind, cold, and damp. In that case, you may have joint pain that moves around, feels heavy, is severely achy, and flares up when the weather is damp and cold.
Several research studies have indicated that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for arthritis pain.
If you seek out an acupuncturist or practitioner of Chinese medicine for your arthritis, they may use several different healing tools in their treatment. A practitioner would generally start with acupuncture, choosing points near the affected areas, as well as points to deal with the pathogens that are causing your pain.
Your acupuncturist may also choose to needle some ear acupuncture points that correspond to the areas in which you’re having pain.
There are a number of Chinese herbal formulas that are helpful in treating arthritis pain.
If your acupuncturist prescribes herbs, he or she would choose a formula based on the nature of your pain. For example, if your arthritis is caused by dampness and heat, you would need herbs that cool the heat and drain or dry the dampness.
Other therapies might include applying heat, food therapy, and some lifestyle changes.
Some steps you can take yourself include:
Gentle movement helps loosen things up, and it can help move energy and blood in your pathways.
Heat it up or cool it off
If your arthritis is worse in the cold weather, or feels cold to the touch, apply some heat. If it’s hot, cool it off, but don’t overdo the ice, because too much cold can make your joints stiffen up.
Get enough rest
Remember, Bi syndromes tend to be the result of your body being run down in some way. You heal when you rest. This includes getting enough sleep each night.
Avoid activities that aggravate your pain
This may seem obvious, but if it hurts, stop doing it. This includes runners with arthritic knees. In the same vein, slow down and reduce your stress, as a stressful lifestyle can be severely depleting.
Eat to ease inflammation
Makes sure you get enough of the right kinds of fats–Omega 3’s, which help clear inflammation from your body.
Good foods include cold water fish, like salmon, mackerel, and herring, as well as plant-based fats, such as flax seed (oil), walnuts and nuts in general, seeds, and avocados.
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