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