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Causes of Arthritis from Chinese Medical Perspective

By Yang, Jwing-Ming

The author of this article, Mr. Jwing-Ming Yang, has done a wonderful job of translating traditional Oriental concepts into words and ideas that are better understood by us in the Western world. For more information on how arthritis is described in the terms that practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine use, please see the article on "Bi" Syndromes among the Clinical Point Selections.

"Bi" means pain, and many of the "Bi" syndromes overlap with the Western differentiation of arthritis.

Although we understand how some forms of arthritis start, we are still in the dark about other forms. In this section we would like to summarize the known possible causes, and also contribute some ideas from Chinese medicine and Qigong.

1. Weakness of the Internal Organs:

We already know that the condition of the internal organs is closely related to our health. According to Chinese medicine, there are five Yin organs which are considered the most important for our health and longevity. These organs are the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and spleen. Whenever any of these five organs is not functioning properly, sickness or even death can occur. Furthermore, all of these five organs are mutually interrelated. Whenever there is a problem with one, the others are always involved too. For example, gouty arthritis is caused by the improper functioning of the liver and kidneys.

2. Defective Genes:

Only recently it was reported that some forms of arthritis are caused by defective genes, which are inherited from one's parents. According to Chinese medicine, the genes are considered the essence of your being. This essence is responsible for the production of hormones, from which Qi is generated. When this Qi is led to the brain, the spirit is raised. When all of these conversion processes are functioning normally, the immune system is strong and sickness is less likely. One of the main goals of Qigong is learning how to convert the essence into Qi efficiently and lead it to the brain.

3. Weak Joints:

Weak joints can come from heredity or from lack of exercise. The body is a living machine, so the more you use it, the better condition it will be in. Chinese medicine believes that even if you have inherited a weak joint it is still possible to strengthen it through Qigong. When you exercise, Qi is brought to the joint by the movement of the muscles and tendons. This will nourish the joint and rebuild it.

4. Injury:

According to today's medicine, some forms of arthritis are caused by injury to the joints. Although the injury may not be serious, it may have significant results. The injury can affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, or even the cartilage and bone. Whenever any joint injury, even a minor one, is not treated, the normal smooth Qi circulation in the joint area will be affected. If the situation persists, the Qi imbalance can cause problems such as arthritis.

5. Aging:

Aging has always been the cause of many sicknesses, including arthritis. When you are old, the Qi level in your body is low. Since your system is being deprived of the required amount of Qi, it starts to degenerate. One of the main goals of Qigong practice is learning how to slow down the aging process by building up the Qi in the body.

6. Qi Deficiency:

Qi deficiency is responsible for many problems. It can be caused by emotional depression and sadness, which can lead the Qi inward and make the body Yin. This deprives the outer body of Qi. When this happens, you will generally feel cold. If the problem persists for a long time, the muscles and tendons will be affected by the the lack of Qi, and the joints will be weakened.

Qi deficiency can have other causes, such as the weather. For example, your body's Qi is more deficient in the winter, and there fore, arthritis can be more serious then.

Qi deficiency can also be caused by working for prolonged periods in a damp area, or by exposing your joints to the cold.

7. Tension:

Tension includes both mental tension and physical tension, which are related and cannot be separated. Constant mental and physical tension can increase the pressure on the joints. For example, some people are very tense and grind their teeth in their sleep, which can cause arthritis in the jaw.

A lot of body tension is caused by the emotional disturbance which is related to your mental reaction to stressful events. For this reason, learning how to regulate your mind is an important part of the treatment of arthritis.

2-5. Other Possible Means of Preventing or Curing Arthritis

In addition to the ones already discussed, there are a number of other methods of preventing or curing arthritis. Although many of them are still awaiting scientific confirmation, they may be worth your consideration. However, you must understand that everybody has his or her own unique characteristics, and his or her own unique inheritance. In addition to the habits and lifestyle that each person has developed, everyone's mental and physical structure is different. For example, some people are affected by allergies while others are not. What this means is that you cannot necessarily use the same method to treat different people, even when they have the same disease. Even modern Western medicine has found that the same treatment will not work equally well on all patients. Therefore, do not automatically brush off some of the treatment methods we will discuss. After all, Western medicine is only in its infancy, and it may come to understand and accept these alternative remedies.

1. Diet:

People who are experienced in Qigong have always considered food to be a significant influence on the condition of the Qi in the body. For this reason, diet is one of the main concerns of Chinese medicine. There is a saying: "You are what you eat." It is well known that improper diet is one of the main causes of gouty arthritis. The Chinese have found many different herbs that can ease the pain and reduce the swelling of arthritis. It has recently been discovered that protein, calories, and fats can reduce the inflammation of arthritis. Certain fish oils may interfere with the process of inflammation and therefore reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.(*5, *6).

2. Change of Residence:

Since the Qi in your environment can affect the Qi in your body, arthritis sufferers should give serious consideration to this method. If the climate where you live is too damp or too cold, it may be affect ing your arthritis. It has recently been discovered that the Qi in our bodies can be significantly affected by the electromagnetic fields generated by modern technology, and therefore cause some forms of cancer. For example, people who live near high tension power lines tend to get cancer more often than those who do not. Perhaps similar environmental effects on arthritis will be found.

3. Change of Lifestyle:

Your lifestyle affects how the Qi circulates in your body. If you frequently feel ill, especially mentally, you might need to change your lifestyle. How you think and how you coordinate the Qi pattern in your body with the natural Qi is very important for your health. Whenever your Qi circulation is against the "Dao" (nature), you will be sick. You may find that walking for an hour or doing Qigong exercises every morning improves your Qi circulation.

4. Clothing:

What you wear also affects the Qi in your body. In the winter you must stay warm, and especially protect your joints. Joints that are left unprotected can loose Qi very quickly.

It has been discovered that many man-made fibers can adversely affect the Qi distribution and circulation in the body. For example, polyester is known to cause Qi stagnation, and to prevent the body's Qi from exchanging with the environmental Qi. You may have noticed that clothing made of polyester can accumulate a considerable charge of static electricity in the winter. This builds up an electromagnetic field and affects the Qi circulation in your body. There are many other ways of improving the condition of your arthritis. For example, it is reported that sexual activity can stimulate the adrenal glands to produce more corticosteroid, a hormone that reduces joint inflammation and pain. It is believed that sexual activity may also trigger the release of endorphins, a naturally occurring painkilling substance.(*7) You can see from our brief discussion that, if we want to under stand arthritis completely, we must remain humble and continue our study and research. Only then will we be able to reach the goal of a complete cure.

References

  1. "Medicine for the Layman - Arthritis," Clinical Center Office of Clinical Reports & Inquiries, Building 10B, Room 1C255, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892.
  2. "The Complete Medical Guide," Benjamin F. Miller, M.D., Simon and Schuster, New York, 1978.
  3. "Arthritis, Rheumatic Diseases, and Related Disorders," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health.
  4. "An Overview of Arthritis and Related Disorders," Caring, January 1989.
  5. "Arthritis and Diet," Arthritis Foundation, 1314 Spring Street, N.W., Atlanta, GA 30309.
  6. "Can Diet Relieve Arthritis," University of California, Berkeley, Wellness Letter, Volume 6, Issue 8.
  7. "Arthritis and Your Love Life," 8, Men's Health, 1989.

From the book entitled "Arthritis - The Chinese Way of Healing & Prevention", YMAA Publication Center, Jamaica Plain. 


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