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Home > Newsletters > May 2003

Ancient Chinese Remedies For Arthritis

By Maoshing Ni, L.Ac., Ph.D.

As the population of America ages, the most common health concern of physically active baby-boomers is the condition of their joints. It is estimated that 70 million Americans have some form of arthritis. Furthermore, countless Americans undergo surgical procedures for joint injuries every year. Besides obvious traumas, common causes of arthritis include heredity, infections, aging and environment. If left untreated, arthritis and joint problems can be crippling and vastly affect one’s quality of life.

Chances are you or someone you know has arthritis. Arthritis is one of the most common diseases in the U.S. and is the leading cause of disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every three Americans is affected by one of the more than 100 types of arthritis. These include conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, carpal tunnel syndrome, lupus, Lyme disease, ankylosing spondylitis, bursitis, tendonitis and fibromyalgia to name a few.

The cause of most types of arthritis is unknown. Scientists are currently studying aging, genes, environment and lifestyle factors that contribute to the development of arthritis. The most common symptoms involve pain, stiffness and swelling around the joints or soft tissue. This can contribute to difficulty in daily activities that require movement. Other symptoms may include fatigue, fevers, depression and weight gain.

The one common characteristic of any arthritic condition is inflammation. The inflammation is an immune system response to a foreign invasion (virus), injury or dysfunction (auto-immune response). Conventional treatments include anti-inflammatory agents, steroids and other immuno-suppressant drugs complemented by physiotherapy. The side effects of conventional treatments can be immense and often trouble arthritic patients for the rest of their lives.

There is another way to obtain relief from arthritis without the side effects of taking drugs—the Chinese medicine way. This alternative to western medicine is several thousands of years old with a strong track record of good results.

In Chinese medicine, arthritis is called a “Bi” or “stagnation and stasis” condition. We categorize “Bi” conditions according to their symptomatic characteristics such as location, intensity of pain, amount of heat or inflammation and amount of swelling and disability. For example, arthritic pain that moves from joint to joint is called “Xin Bi” or moving arthritis.

Both external and internal factors can cause arthritis. External causes include invasion by pathogenic factors such as wind, cold or dampness that obstruct the normal flow of Qi and blood, thereby resulting in swelling, stiffness, numbness and pain of the joints and soft tissues. Internal causes include emotional stress weakening the defensive ability of one’s immune system and depletion of the Kidney/ Vitality system resulting in degeneration of one’s bones, tendons and cartilage.

Treating arthritis in Chinese medicine focuses on ridding the body of the invading pathogens, restoring normal circulation and flow of blood and Qi, promoting emotional harmony and fortifying the Kidney/ Vitality system. Effective treatments include acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal and dietary therapy, exercise therapy, cupping and massage.

Acupuncture has been found to be clinically effective in reducing arthritic pain and improving mobility and circulation. Often, localized acupuncture therapy directly on the joint or tissue itself, with or without electrical stimulation or moxa (heat therapy with the herb mugwort) can be extremely helpful in managing arthritis. This obviously requires obtaining treatments from a licensed acupuncturist.

Herbal Therapy
Herbal therapy is useful in reducing inflammation, nourishing joints and soft tissues and improving one’s energy. It may also be a useful replacement for anti-inflammatory drugs that some people find upsetting to their stomach. Besides relieving arthritic symptoms, it is as important to nourish and prevent the onset of arthritis. There is good news for arthritis sufferer unable to access acupuncture treatments.

Traditions of Tao, a company dedicated to the research of herbal products for modern needs formulated Healthy Joint and Arthritis Elixir to help people nourish and promote the proper function of their joints. It also offers relief of symptoms of arthritis.

The Healthy Joint and Arthritis Elixir is specially formulated based on long years of Ni Family clinical success in helping their patients with joint conditions.

This proprietary formula contains licorice root and peony root, which soothe pain and spasms; notopterygium root and Korean ash bark dispel dampness from the joints and restores flexibility; eucommia bark and mulberry stem nourish the joints; dang gui root, sheng di root and Szechwan lovage root promote proper lubrication of the joints; astraglus root modulates and balances the immune system; Chinese lovage root, peach kernel and safflower support proper circulation; and finally poria root helps proper stomach and digestive function.

Dietary Therapy
Dietary Therapy advocates avoiding foods that produce dampness or mucous that may further obstruct the flow of qi and blood in the channels, therefore exacerbating the arthritis.

Foods to avoid:

  • cow milk products (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream, etc.)
  • night shade vegetables (tomato, eggplant, peppers, potato)
  • deep fried and fatty foods
  • processed and refined foods
  • cold and raw foods (salads, fruits)
  • wheat
  • red meat
  • alcohol
  • coffee
  • sugar

Exercise Therapy
Exercise Therapy focuses on joint mobility, increasing circulation and strengthening tendons, ligaments and muscles. The best types of exercise include water exercise, taiji, qigong, gentle yoga, stationary bike, walking and light weight-training.

Cupping and Massage
Cupping and Massage are treatment modalities designed to vastly increase circulation to affected areas, ridding toxins and waste products that aggravate inflammation and introducing the joints and tissues to fresh nutrients and oxygen. These techniques are effective for reducing swelling, stiffness and pain.

There is no reason why you cannot live a full and active life, even if you suffer from arthritis. The therapies listed above, either alone or in combination can vastly improve your quality of life if you practice them diligently.

Dr. Maoshing Ni, a Licensed Acupuncturist and a Diplomat of Chinese Herbology, is currently in general practice at the Tao of Wellness Clinic in Santa Monica, California. The Tao of Wellness Clinic is one of the oldest in Los Angeles, established in 1976. (310) 917-2200

This Month's Articles

May 2003
Volume 1, Number 5

Ancient Chinese Remedies for Arthritis

From An Eastern Perspective

Ask The Doctor


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