Inflammation is a natural response of the body, when tissue has been injured, irritated or damaged. Arthritis is an inflammatory process of one or more joints in the body. The most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Spondyloarthropies and Gout. The main signs & symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness, and/or decreased range of motion. Some cases may advance to joint destruction and deformity.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, arthritis is known as a "BI" syndrome (pronounced Bee). "BI" generally means "obstruction, and or stagnation." In Chinese medicine it means pain, soreness or numbness due to the lack of circulation of Energy (Qi, pronounced Chee) and blood in the body channels. This is often considered to be caused by wind, cold or dampness from the outside climate entering the body. People with arthritis often say that they are a barometer for weather changes. Their bodies can sense when a storm, cold, or rain is on its way. Like the environment, our bodies also have climatic changes, and these are often amplified by environmental weather changes. When the weather changes to a slightly damper or colder day, our bodies may be stiffer, our joints may feel creaky and painful, and we often feel like there is an enormous heavy weight over our whole body. Many arthritis sufferers also usually have a lack of body energy, Qi, as well, which may present itself as fatigue or depression.
When observing arthritis in Chinese Medicine, the symptoms are carefully organized to determine the main influence (i.e. wind, damp, cold, heat). The root of the problem is also taken into consideration to find what the constitutional weakness or deficiency may be. Treatment plans are designed individually to do two things:
1) Minimize the impact of external influences to help relieve the symptoms, and 2) to find effective ways support the body as a whole.
Nutritional guidance, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines can all be very effective in pain management. Knowing your metabolic type, and understanding which foods irritate your arthritis is invaluable information to help make your life pain free. Like the nutritional aspect, Chinese herbal medicines are prescribed based specifically to each individual patient to assist with long term prevention. Acupuncture helps with immediate pain control and can increase joint mobility.
It is important to avoid exposure to wind, damp and cold. Exercising outdoors with very little clothing, when the weather is cold and damp should be avoided. Living in a damp and wet environment is also not recommended. Excessive exercise, repetitive/overuse injuries and accidents often predispose people to arthritic symptoms.
Everyone needs to take an active role in the maintenance and prevention of arthritis, especially because the cold of winter slows the body and increases obstruction (BI) in the joints. There are numerous dietary recommendations and herbs (both eastern and western), vitamins, minerals and other forms of supplementation, which can be of help to the joints. Following the guidance of a health coach, can help you sort out which foods, and supplements may be beneficial for you. Regular non-weight bearing exercises such as riding your bicycle, water aerobics, or water exercises and walking are good choices. Avoid weight bearing or impact exercises. Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are effective ways to increase and improve the flow of Energy and blood in the body. Health Coaching together with Traditional Chinese medicine offers another effective treatment to those patients suffering from arthritis.
Judy R. Mazurin B.Sc, D.TCM, R.Ac.