Arthritis is a very common disease. It is a form of joint disorder which involves the inflammation of one or more joints. Common symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness and inflammation of the joints. The severity, location and the progression of arthritis varies from person to person.
There are many different types of arthritis. The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Other types of arthritis include:
• Gout – a type of arthritis that usually affects the big toe, but can also develop in any joint in the body.
• Ankylosing spondylitis – a long-term condition that involves inflammation of the joints between the spinal bones, and the joints between the spine and pelvis.
• Lupus – an autoimmune condition that causes connective tissues in the body to become inflamed, which typically affects women between 15 and 35 years of age.
• Psoriatic arthritis – joint inflammation that will develop in up to 30 percent of people who have the chronic skin condition of psoriasis.
• Polymyalgia rheumatica – a condition in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue, causing pain in various muscles and joint inflammation.
• Reactive arthritis (Reiter’s syndrome) – an autoimmune condition that develops in response to an infection that causes inflammation of the joints, eyes, and urinary tract.
• Secondary arthritis – a type of arthritis that can develop after a joint injury.
• Juvenile arthritis – a number of different arthritic conditions in children.
Osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) is a wear-and-tear disease that is often associated with ageing. It is most commonly seen in people who are over 50, but also can develop at any age as a result of an injury or another joint-related condition.
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage between the bones gradually wastes away, causing pain as the bones rub together. The most frequently affected joints are in the knees, hips, hands, feet and spine.
Excessive weight bearing or repetitive use can hasten the onset of arthritic change in some joints. Other factors like previous bone fracture involving the joint, diabetes and long term inappropriate use of cortisone can precipitate or exacerbate osteoarthritis.
The main symptom of osteoarthritis is joint pain, especially on waking in the morning. The joints ache when being maintained in one position for long, but are relieved by movement. Excessive exercise however increases friction between the joint surfaces and can also bring on pain. Change in the weather also makes arthritic pain more noticeable. A sense of stiffness is felt, especially after rest. There may also be grating noises with movement. Other accompanying symptoms include swelling, muscle wasting, joint deformity and loss of normal range of movement.
About rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and inflammation of the joints. It can also affect other parts of the body including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood and kidneys.
In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system starts to attack the body’s own tissues, specifically the joints, and causes the synovium (a thin membrane that lines the joints) to become inflamed. As a result, synovial fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain and inflammation in the joints that eventually damages damage the joint itself, the cartilage and nearby bone. Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease meaning it can occur throughout the body.
It can affect people of any age, but is most common between the ages of 40 and 70 years old. Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be affected by the condition than men.
The common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include pain, swelling, warmth in the affected joints, stiffness and restricted movement of the joints especially in the morning, weak muscles, as well as general feeling of fatigue and ill-health.
Treating arthritis with conventional medicine
In the perspective of western medicine, there is no cure for arthritis. Treatments aim to help slow down the condition’s progress. Medication can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, and steroid-based drugs such as corticosteroids, are the most commonly used medications for chronic inflammatory arthritis. These types of medications often provide short-term relief of arthritis symptoms only. Long-term use of these medications can produce side effects such as stomach irritation, gastritis and ulcers. An exercise program and physical therapy are helpful for osteoarthritis patients to maintain a satisfactory level of activity. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended.
TCM perspective of arthritis
The condition that is congruent with arthritis in Traditional Chinese Medicine is called “Bi syndrome.” According to TCM, Bi syndrome is the result of the body being “invaded” by the external pathogenic factors of Wind, Cold, Heat, and/or Dampness. All this contributes in causing the blockage of the meridians and collateral of the joints, as well as the stagnation of Qi (vital energy) and stasis of blood.
The common symptoms of Bi syndrome are pain, soreness, or numbness of muscles, tendons and joints. The symptoms manifested by the individual depend on which external pathogenic factor is strongest.
The symptoms of the cold type arthritis include acute pain that has fixed spots and difficulties in stretching and bending. The pain will increase in cold weather. The symptoms of heat type arthritis include red and swollen joints that feel scorching hot and cannot be touched, as well as limited movement because of the pains. The symptoms of the damp type of arthritis include dull pains that move around without a fixed spot, with the pain increasing on wet and windy days.
How TCM can help treat arthritis
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for oral and local application can treat different types of arthritis by expelling pathogenic wind, clearing away cold, removing dampness and clearing up heat. All this will help to remove obstruction in meridians and improve local circulation, therefore can decrease inflammation in surrounding soft tissue, as well as repair the cartilage lining and arrest the development of bony spurs, which will result in stopping the pain and promoting recovery.
Studies show that acupuncture can stimulate the body to release endorphins (natural pain-killers), and produce natural steroids (anti-inflammatory hormone) that reduce pain and inflammation.
Chinese herbal medicine has proven to be effective for relieving pain, as well as nourishing and strengthening the joints. It has been used by millions of people for thousands of years.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can also be used on an ongoing basis to prevent re-occurrence of arthritis. In addition, guidance will be given to practice special TCM exercises and proper diets, which will make the treatment more effective. Abolition of symptoms and restoration of joint function are the ultimate aim of this treatment, without undesirable side effects or the need for surgery.
Helped at the centre:
Using acupuncture and Chinese herbs in treating arthritis has proven to achieve excellent results. At our clinic, Dr. Xing has helped many patients with arthritis relieve themselves from their condition, and lead healthy lives again.
One man had been suffering from acute arthritis in his left knee as a result of a football injury, for many years. His friends recommended that he visit Dr. Xing, after several other treatments failed to treat the condition. Within just 48 hours of being treated with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, the pain had disappeared, and his knee has remained free of any discomfort ever since.