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Arthritis In TCM
Healing Arthritis with Chinese Medicine

Each year millions of workers are sidelined by joint pain. If the pain is mild, many just "tough it out," but find that the problem gets worse year by year. Severe joint pain can incapacitate people, making it impossible for them to move freely or live the life they want to live. Most people with joint pain are diagnosed with arthritis, which is a general term for a number of different conditions that involve swollen, painful, and/or stiff joints. The two most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis; and osteoarthritis, which is an age-related degeneration of joints. One in seven Americans is afflicted with osteoarthritis, and some are virtually housebound by joint pain.
In the West, anti-inflammatory medicine is commonly prescribed for arthritis. In the East, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, with their thousand-year-old history, are the major health care modalities used to fight joint and musculo-skeletal disorders including arthritis. These ancient therapies are still used because they are empirically effective, and have experienced the test of time. Now they are standing to meet the tests of Western medicine which is not good for its development as its own way.

Arthritis in Chinese Medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine(TCM), the condition that is congruent with arthritis is called "Bi syndrome." Bi syndrome manifests as pain, soreness, or numbness of muscles, tendons and joints, and is the result of the body being "invaded" by the external climatological factors of Wind, Cold, Heat, and/or Dampness. The symptoms manifested by the individual depend on which external pathogenic factor is strongest. The four main patterns of Bi syndrome are differentiated below, and the leading herbs that are used to treat each pattern are listed.
Wind Pattern
Exposure to wind, especially when one is exposed and unprotected to the wind for a long time, is an important cause of the Wind pattern of arthritis. Any Wind pattern is characterized by movement of symptoms from one place tothe other. In the case of Wind Bi, there is joint soreness and pain which moves from joint to joint. Movement of joints is limited, and there is often fever, as well as an aversion to wind, or windy weather. A thin white tongue coating and a floating pulse are signs that help TCM Doctors diagnose Wind Bi. Leading herbs for this pattern include ledebouriella (Fang Feng), and ephedra (Ma Huang).

Cold Pattern
The Cold pattern of arthritis (Cold Bi) is characterized by severe pain in a joint or muscle. This pain has a fixed location, rather than moving about (as in Wind Bi). The pain is relieved by applying warmth to the affected area, but increases with exposure to cold. Movement of joints is limited. A thin white tongue coating, combined with a wiry and tight pulse are signs of Cold Bi. Leading herbs for this pattern include aconite (Wu Tou), and ephedra (Ma Huang).

Damp Pattern
The Damp pattern of arthritis (Damp Bi) is characterized by pain, soreness and swelling in muscles and joints, with a feeling of heaviness and numbness in the limbs. The pain has a fixed location and is aggravated by damp weather. A white, sticky tongue coating and a soggy, slow pulse are signs of Damp Bi. Leading herbs for this pattern include coix (Yi Yi Ren), and lancea atractylodes (Cang Zhu).

Heat Pattern
The Heat pattern of arthritis (Hot Bi) can develop from any of the above three patterns. It is characterized by severe pain and hot-red-swollen joints. The pain is generally relieved by applying cold to the joints. Other symptoms include fever, thirst, anxiety, and an aversion to wind. A yellow, dry tongue coating and slippery, rapid pulse are seen with Hot Bi. Leading herbs for this pattern include anemarrhena (Zhi Mu), gypsum (Shi Gao), and cinnamon (Gui Zhi).
A time-tested herbal formula for joint pain is Joint Strength (Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan). This herbal combination was written down about twelve hundred years ago, during the Tang Dynasty. It contains herbs that relieve pain, as well as herbs that nourish and strengthen the joints. It has been used by millions of people over the last millennium. You can take it over a long period of time without worrying about side-effects.

Support for Acupuncture
Joint pain, back pain, and headaches constitute a large percentage of all the visits paid to doctors? offices and acupuncture clinics in any country at all times. In traditional Chinese medical theory, it is believed that the pathogenic factors that cause Bi syndrome (Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat) lodge in the body?s meridians (energy pathways) and obstruct the free flow of Chi and Blood in those meridians. When blood and energy are not able to flow naturally, they stagnate, causing pain, heat, and other symptoms of illness. Acupuncture and herbal therapy help to open the blockage, balance the energy, and harmonize Chi and Blood.

Scientifically proving the validity of these ancient concepts is challenging, but promising. More and more scientifically-designed clinical studies support the use of acupuncture for arthritis. One study examined the effects of acupuncture on 32 osteoarthritis patients waiting for knee replacement surgery. After nine weeks, patients receiving acupuncture treatments reported a decrease in pain, while pain increased in untreated patients. The patients with acupuncture treatments were able to walk farther and faster, compared with the untreated group. Another study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that 12 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee improved significantly after acupuncture treatments. These results encouraged the researchers to do a larger study which is currently under way.

Doctor Wang
Next Artical: Arthritis in Western Medicine
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