Approximately one in six (four million) Canadians develop arthritis, two-thirds of which are women. Arthritis ranks second and third amongst the most commonly reported chronic conditions in women and men, respectively. If you or someone you know has been living with prolonged arthritis pain and has never known that a solution may exist, Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine will not only relieve the symptoms but will also treat the underlying cause in order to permanently resolve the condition!
What is Arthritis? Arthritis literally means “inflammation of a joint.” It is accompanied by pain, swelling, and changes in joint structure. The distance between the two bones within the joint becomes narrower and the cartilage that forms a smooth lining at the ends of the bones becomes thinner and irregular. There is a restricted range of motion, with cracking and creaking noises caused by the rubbing of the two irregular surfaces. The affected joints usually feel stiff after periods of immobility such as the morning after a night’s sleep.
Two major types of Arthritis: The two major types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: more severe with development of deformities and loss of function. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease.
- Osteoarthritis: more common and results from the effects of wear and tear. It tends to affect joints that have been subjected to overuse, trauma, or excessive weight bearing.
Conventional Treatments for Arthritis: Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis in conventional medicine. The drugs available do not come without side effects, and once discontinued, the symptoms recur. Conventional medical doctors mainly prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to treat the symptoms of arthritis:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS): These have little or no effect on the underlying disease and therefore cannot prevent progression of joint destruction or organ damage. Examples include aspirin, ibuprofen, indomethacin, and naproxen. The effects of NSAIDS are quite rapid but once the drug is stopped, its benefits fade. Side effects include stomach irritation, gastritis, ulcers, skin reactions and rashes, increased blood coagulation time, reversible liver toxicity, and impaired kidney function.
Chinese Medicine Perspective of Arthritis:
TCM classifies arthritis as ‘painful obstruction,’ meaning that there is a blockage in the normal flow of blood and Qi (energy) in the body. The Qi and blood are obstructed by an invasion of climatic influences from the environment such as wind, cold, heat, or dampness. These factors gain access to the body because of a pre-existing weakness or imbalance. The combination of factors from the outside plus the imbalances within the body causes the Qi and blood flow to become blocked in some of the joints. Each individual’s particular symptoms give an indication of the type of pathogens that are present. For example, pain that moves from one joint to another is due to wind; fixed pain with numbness and heaviness is due to dampness; inflammation with red and hot joints is due to heat; severe pain without redness or heat is due to cold. In practice, arthritis is mainly due to wind and dampness. The overall health of the individual plays an important role. If the Qi, blood, Liver, or Kidneys are in a weakened state, the person will be predisposed towards an invasion of external pathogens.
Can Acupuncture help the pain?
Yes! Acupuncture is extremely successful in eliminating pain. In Chinese Medicine terms, acupuncture alleviates arthritis pain by the painless insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to promote the circulation of Qi and blood, thus eliminating blockages and relieving pain. It causes the body to produce chemicals called endorphins, which are “natural painkillers.” Endorphins are similar to morphine but of course the difference is that there are no side effects. Acupuncture also works through the nervous system by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. It also deactivates the trigger points that are often responsible for the chronic pain frequently found around arthritic joints. Acupuncture also has a very relaxing effect on the mind and body. Since many illnesses are the result of stress, acupuncture’s relaxing capabilities help promote the healing process.
Not only does acupuncture relieve pain, but it also relieves the swelling that is present in Rheumatoid Arthritis. The degree of inflammation fluctuates, possibly following changes in the stress levels of the body. Acupuncture stimulates the adrenal glands to produce natural steroids that have anti-inflammatory effects.
Acupressure massage is also incorporated at the end of an acupuncture treatment to stimulate the circulation in the affected areas, aiding the effect of the acupuncture and providing comfort and relaxation to the patient.
How about Chinese Herbal Medicine and Dietetics for Arthritis?
Herbal medicine is typically combined with acupuncture for the treatment of arthritis in order to strengthen any underlying weaknesses and to enhance the functioning of the immune system. Therefore, this provides the quickest and most complete approach. The herbs come in capsule and powder form and are easy to ingest.
Specific changes in lifestyle, diet, and supplement intake will also be advised. There is no general dietary guideline to be followed by arthritis patients, as every individual is different. Therefore, an assessment of the patient’s diet is included in the initial consultation.
How many treatments are necessary?
Each person’s situation is unique. Some patients respond to acupuncture more quickly than others. Most patients find symptomatic relief after a few treatments. Typically, six to ten sessions within a 1 to 2 month period is a normal course of treatment. Then there is a re-evaluation of the patient’s case. For cases where there is a reoccurrence of inflammation or where joint mobility is restricted, periodic maintenance treatments are recommended.