Getting to the Root of Joint Pain: Arthritis Series, Part 2
In part one of the arthritis series, we went over the basics, signs and symptoms of common arthritis conditions. If you missed it you can find it here. Today we are going to look at arthritis through the lens of Eastern Asian medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Chinese medicine is a very complex system of medicine that was developed over many centuries of observing nature. It sees the human body as a part of the natural landscape and treats the body as a whole, not a list of symptoms but more a complex network of relationships trying to create balance in the body. Disease in Chinese medicine is an imbalance or disharmony in the natural balance.The goal of treatment is to bring the body into balance so that it may work efficiently and heal itself. For more background on Chinese medicine check out this blog post: Chinese Medicine in a Nutshell.
When making a diagnosis in the Traditional Chinese Medical model (TCM) we look at groups of symptoms to find patterns, then treat according to the pattern diagnosis. There is an infamous Chinese saying, “Same disease different treatment, different disease same treatment”. This refers to the the idea that two people can have the same disease, but have a different treatments because they have different patterns. The reverse can also be true that two people coming for two separate conditions could get the same treatment. This is because TCM treats based on the pattern presenting, not the disease.
In the case of Arthritis, the general diagnosis will be an impediment condition known as Bi-syndrome or Bi-Zheng which can be translated a pain syndrome, but the presenting pattern will be different depending on where the imbalance lays in the body. So how it will be treated will be different from person to person.
The TCM theory of how Bi-syndromes come to be is that there is weakness in the one organ systems where the body’s defences are not strong enough to protect from one or more of the pernicious influences, so that it then becomes lodged in the body in the joint spaces.
Pernicious influences include: wind, cold, heat, or dampness. Depending on the influence involved symptoms will be different. Many will have a combination of different invading influences such as wind and cold, or wind and heat, or wind and cold and dampness.
Symptoms act like wind in that they can come on suddenly or leave suddenly.
Pain comes and goes
Pain moves around in the body, not a fixed location
Aversion to wind or you dislike being in windy weather
Better with Warmth
Symptoms are worse when cold is applied to them.
You have an aversion to being cold or get cold easily.
Symptoms are worse in the winter (cold weather)
Symptoms get better when heat is applied or you are warmed up.
Aching pain in a
Swollen Warm joints
Feel a sense of warmth
Redness of the skin around joints.
Stabbing or sharp pain
Symptoms are worse in the summer (warm weather)
Symptoms are better with rest
Difficulty flexing or extending joints
Stiffness or feeling swollen / puffy
Decrease range of motion
Dull aching pain
Thickening or hardening of tendon of the articulation
Pain that is hard to change
With Bi-syndromes there can be a mix of excess and deficiency. There is an underlying deficiency that is allowing the pain syndrome to take root and then excess symptoms when the condition is in an acute flare stage. The deficiency can be in the overall qi of the body, or a weakness in one of the organ systems brought on by excessive overworking, injury, or improper body mechanics.
Worse with pressure
Worse during the day
Worse with activity
Achy tight feeling
Better with pressure
Worse at night
Lassitude of spirit
Low back and Knee weakness
Once your pattern is identified the treatment will be tailored to restoring balance in the body by calming the excess and tonifying the deficiency. If the condition is cold the treatment will be to warm. If it is hot in natural, the heat will be cleared. If there is dampness that will be dried. This can be done with acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, body work, and lifestyle modification. In holistic medicine using a combination of therapies is recommended for a whole system approach to healing.
Next in the arthritis series we will look at why treating arthritis holistically