One very pervasive condition experienced, especially as we age, is arthritis — pain, stiffness and inflammation of the joints. Some have the genetic tendency to develop this; others had injuries earlier in life that heal, but later tend to become arthritic areas. Some people develop arthritis throughout several joints of their body while some only have it in one.
The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that first targets the lining of the joints, the synovium.
Uric acid crystals, infections or underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus, can cause other types of arthritis.
As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine in central Vermont, I am treating people with these conditions almost every day using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Most commonly I see those with osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, in the spine, or fingers. Chinese Medicine calls pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the joints Bi (“bee”) syndrome. Bi means “painful obstruction”. The joints are where bones connect with each other in order to allow for proper movement. The components of the joints that enable smooth movement can degrade over time. These changes and resulting symptoms are considered “obstruction” or poor circulation through that area. This may be influenced by your genetic tendency, by how you’ve used the joint over your lifetime, and by the food you’ve given your body to nourish your joints.
How Acupuncture For Arthritis Help?
By inserting very fine, stainless steel acupuncture needles at the area of pain, there will be relaxation of the surrounding musculature and increase of blood circulation to the joint space. This will help reduce the local inflammation and preserve the structure. We don’t expect to bring the joint back to its state when you were a teenager, but we do expect to reduce the pain level. Aside from increasing local blood circulation, acupuncture is also thought to decrease pain by increasing the release of chemicals that block pain, called endorphins. The stimulated area sends a message to the central nervous system causing the release of endorphins. Endorphins, along with other body chemicals that modify nerve impulses, block the message of pain from being delivered up to the brain. This increase in blood circulation and release of endorphins is generally why acupuncture is so helpful for pain management.
Using Chinese Herbs for Joint Pain
Bi syndrome is further defined for each individual based on what makes it feel better or worse. Does your knee feel better or worse after walking a mile? Or after sitting for an hour? Do your fingers ache more on humid days? Do they feel generally worse in hot or cold weather? Does your hip feel best or worst first thing in the morning? And at the end of the day? Is the pain stabbing or a dull ache? The answers to these questions guide the herbalist to choose the most effective combination of herb.