Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs for Arthritis

July 2001

The Chinese medical terminology for different types of arthritis is called "Bi" syndrome. "Bi" means closing up, stagnation. According to Chinese medical theory, when the body loses Yin-Yang balance and body resistance is low, wind, cold, and dampness can easily invade meridians and cause Qi and blood stagnation. Symptoms are pain, swelling, numbness and stiffness in joints. Long-term disease causes deformed joints. There are three common Bi differentiations in the clinic: wind Bi, cold Bi and damp Bi.

Wind Bi is caused by external wind. The pain is movable from one joint to another. Cold Bi, also called painful Bi, is caused by external cold. Usually cold Bi is very painful. The pain, which is more severe when the weather is cold, can be reduced or relieved by heat compress. Damp Bi is caused by dampness. The pain is localized and combines numbness and a heavy feeling of body or limb. When a Yang excess body is invaded by wind, cold and damp external pathogens, the pathogenic factors will turn to heat quickly. The heat enters the meridian and causes hot Bi. Typical hot Bi symptoms are pain, redness, swelling and stiffness in joints.

Chinese medicine has a long history and many doctors have been accumulating a lot of experience in treating Bi syndrome. 'The key point of differentiation is to distinguish heat or cold in the body. Long-term Bi syndrome results in a body deficiency that can be helped by tonifying Qi and blood, which regulates Qi and blood when a Bi syndrome is lingering. Treat wind Bi with tonifying yin and cleaning blood, cold Bi with strengthening kidney and warming Yang, and damp Bi with reinforcing spleen and tonifying Qi. There are other therapeutic methods such as: cooling down blood, removing toxins, invigorating blood and removing blood stagnation, warming up meridians and opening up channels. For Rheumatoid arthritis choose the herbs Man Lin Pi and Lu Feng Fang to regulate immune function. Using Hang Shui Shi and Hu Zhang to treat damp heat stagnation may lower blood sedimentation (ESR) and antistreptolysin o titre (ASOT). Tu Hu Lin, Bei Xie may help to lower urine acidity. (in Shui Bu, Lu Man Cao, Ge Geng and Chuang Duang are often used for joint degeneration or proliferation.

Using acupuncture to treat different types of arthritis is more common in the clinic. Points selection are: local points combine with distal points, find sensitive pressure spot as a point which is also called Ashi point. Use above points to invigorate Qi and blood circulation in the meridians and dredge the clogged meridians. For spine degenerative and proliferate change using Jia Ji points can strengthen the bone, relax the meridians and open up the channels. When the meridians are opened up, Qi and blood move freely which can help to relieve pain. According to the differentiations among the wind Bi, cold Bi and damp Bi, add different points in order to increase the results.

Here are two successful arthritis cases which used herbs and acupuncture.

M. H. Initial visit was on 3/27/1998. Both hands and feet joints have had severe pain and swelling for 3 to 4 months. The pain started from right wrist and it spread to both hands, feet, shoulders, knees and elbows quickly. Joints were red , swelling, hot and very painful. Symptoms affected her sleep and appetite seriously. She had lost 20 to 30 pounds within 3 to 4 months. Bowel movement was once a day or every other day. Tongue was deep red with yellow coat. Pulses were thin and slightly rapid. Differentiation tell to hot Bi. Yin deficiency and heat in the blood.. Therapeutic principles were: Tonifying Yin, cleansing heat, cool down blood and soften meridian. Acupuncture combined with herbal formula. After one week of the first treatment, her symptoms had remarkable improvement. Appetite restored and she could sleep through 8 hours during the night. But both feet still had bad pain. The third visit was on 4/10/98. She told that both upper and lower limbs' pain were reduced. 4/17/98 was the forth visit. All pain was gone. sleep and appetite were good. Tongue color turned to slight red with thin coat. Pulses are thin.

M. G. First visit was on 3/9/01. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 10 years ago. Both knee joins had suffered bad pain over a year. Both hand joints and shoulder had pain and stiffness often. The pain was worsen when weather was damp and cold. Sleep was ok. Bowel movement was 2?3 times a day. Stools were soft. Tongue was pale with white coat. Pulses were soft. The differentiation of this case was: cold-damp stagnation combined with blood deficiency. The therapeutic principles were: dispersing dampness and cold. Tonifying blood and invigorating blood. After using combination of acupuncture and herbs 3 to 4 weeks, all symptoms were improved, Pain was very little left and body energy level was increased greatly.

Using acupuncture and herbs for arthritis is not looking for a cure but reducing the symptoms and suffering; slowing down the progressive change and improving the body condition. The therapies are safe and effective. It's worth to have a try for those who have arthritis.