Chinese Medicine Effectively Fights OsteoarthritisChinese Medicine Effectively Fights Osteoarthritis

By Craig Cormack, BA, RMT

Knee Osteoarthritis--the most common kind of arthritis--occurs when cartilage begins to wear away. This results in stiffness and swelling causing bones to grind together. When swelling increases, the range of motion decreases and joints become boney and fragile.

Chinese medicine offers many solutions for osteoarthritis. For this article, I will focus on three out of nine branches of Chinese medicine which have been proven successful in fighting osteoarthritis: Tai Chi, Chi Kung, and tuina (Chinese massotherapy).

Tai Chi is an 800 year-old martial art and exercise. Tai Chi involves breathing, balance, and shifting weight. A 2003 Korean study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that after 12 weeks of practice, Tai Chi practitioners found that they perceived less arthritic pain and stiffness in their knee joints. Those in the (non-Tai Chi) control group fared worse and their condition declined.

How can Tai Chi help to relieve Osteoarthritis?

Tai Chi boosts the body’s circulation with blood and energy, thus reducing inflammation. This removes blocked energy (Chi) and blood. Removing the blockage removes the pain. Tai Chi specifically helps the knees by strengthening the quadriceps--the four muscles of the thighs--taking weight off of the knees.

Chi Kung (Qigong) comes to rescue of those with Osteoarthritis

Chi Kung is a 2500 year-old exercise incorporating breathing, movement, and holding postures. It was originally practiced by monks who trained in the martial arts. It is one of the nine branches of Chinese medicine. Medical Chi Kung comes in two varieties, internal Chi Kung and external Chi Kung. Chinese medicine doctors help their patients to heal through the practice of breathing exercises and meditation. Chinese doctors project their own energy into their clients through the practice of external Chi Kung.

Until recently, only anecdotal evidence has backed up the practice of internal and external Chi Kung. Now, there is hard science. In a report called "Effects of Qigong Therapy on Arthritis: A Review and Report of a Pilot Trial," researchers found that nine out of ten patients in a small trial found symptom relief and a reduced active pain/tenderness in their joints after completing a course of three treatments of external Chi Kung. Two of the participants reported complete relief of pain without reoccurrence up to one month after the treatment.2

Dr. Ann Vincent of the Mayo Clinic conducted another recent study on the efficacy of external Chi Kung on arthritis patients. In a small study (50 participants), she found that the experimental group had "demonstrated significant results of immediate reduction in pain intensity in persons with chronic pain after the 2nd,3rd, and 4th external Chi Kung sessions."3

Chinese Massotherapy is a potent solution for Osteoarthritis

Chinese Massotherapy is also known as tuina. Tuina is one of the oldest forms of massage in the world dating back 2500 years. Tuina incorporates hand techniques such as rubbing, rolling, shaking, kneading, plucking and acupressure (finger pressure on acupuncture points). Tuina, like Tai Chi and Chi Kung, helps to improve the circulation of blood and energy, thus speeding up the healing process.

The Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science published a study on the efficacy of tuina for osteoarthritis. Of the 105 patients suffering with osteoarthritis, the experimental group consisted of sixty-eight patients who were treated with acupuncture and tuina, while the control group, consisting of thirty-seven patients, were treated with acupuncture only. Those who received the combination of acupuncture and tuina fared better than those who received acupuncture alone. In both cases, however, the study reported a significant curative effect on knee osteoarthritis.4

Everything in combination is more powerful

Combining branches of Chinese medicine makes treatment more powerful. As in the above case, combining acupuncture with tuina was superior to acupuncture alone. This has also been found in the combination of the other branches of Chinese medicine which includes, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, acupressure, acupuncture, tuina, bone setting, moxibustion, Chinese dietetics, and Chinese herbology.

Explore Tai Chi, Chi Kung and tuina as well as the other branches of Chinese Medicine and you will be satisfied with the results you get.


About the Author:

Craig Cormack, BA, RMT, is a registered Chinese massotherapist, Chi Kung meditation master and senior Tai Chi instructor. He is a consultant at the McGill University Health Centre and President of l’Association de massage Chinois Tuina du Québec.

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