How does acupuncture view arthritis?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are classified as painful obstruction syndromes (POS). POS can refer to any type of pain, soreness or numbness in your muscles, tendons or joints due to the obstruction of the circulation of Qi (energy) and Blood (capitalized to differentiate somewhat from the scientific definition) in your meridians. Furthermore, this obstruction is believed to most often be caused by the invasion of external Wind, Cold or Dampness (in TCM, it is believed that everything that exists in nature can also exist within us). The strength of the external pathogen combined with your level of Qi at the time of invasion will determine the extent to which the blockage occurs.
Arthritis from a Wind pathogen usually involves pain that moves, i.e. you are not always sore in one particular place. On the other hand, POS from Cold obstruction is characterized by more severe pain with limitation of movement, and in a fixed location. Finally, arthritis from Dampness involves more swelling in the area, along with a feeling of heaviness and possibly numbness, with a fixed location.
Prolonged cases of arthritis are believed to involve the partial or complete transformation of any of the above pathogens, usually into Heat, and possibly Phlegm. Both of these types of pathogenic transformation tend to require a more comprehensive type of treatment, as more complications within your body may have been acquired as a result, e.g. sleep issues or bone deformities.
What can acupuncture do to relieve your pain of arthritis?
Acupuncture can relieve your arthritic pain by expelling the pathogen(s) involved, and then resolving any residual Qi and Blood stagnation remaining in your meridians. Since your pattern is most likely a combination of factors, especially so in chronic cases, a few different approaches may be necessary, e.g. Tonifying Blood to extinguish Wind as well as strengthening some of your internal organs to resolve any Dampness that might also be present.
For more information, and to obtain your own free TCM diagnosis, contact us.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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