How TCM Views Osteoarthritis

lady holding knee in pain
lady holding knee in pain

Learning what is osteoarthritis

A common cause of joint pain, particularly amongst the elderly, would be that of osteoarthritis. Commonly referred to as OA, osteoarthritis is most common in adults aged above 40. A progressive and gradual condition, this ailment affects primary joints such as:

  • Wrists
  • Hands
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Shoulder

How osteoarthritis develops

This occurs due to wear and tear over time. Specifically, the cartilage that serves as the cushion and shock absorber for your body’s joints degenerates. As a result, your joint’s bones start to grind against each other, generating large amounts of friction. It is this friction that causes pain and restricts your movement.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

Research has identified several likely indicators of osteoarthritis, including that of:

  • Pain and stiffness of affected joint
  • Joint tenderness, aggravated by movement
  • Swollen joints
  • Cracking sound of bones
  • Crunching feeling felt

Risk variables

Osteoarthritis is more likely to develop under certain conditions:

  • Family history of arthritis
  • Age, the elderly are more susceptible to arthritis
  • Previous injuries
  • Obesity leading to excess stress on joints
x-ray of injured knee

Osteoarthritis viewed in TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is centred around creating harmony in your body. Be it, empowering the flow of Qi or ensuring a balance of yin and yang. When the body is in harmony, it has the strength and defence necessary to repel various conditions or ailments.

In this instance, TCM practitioners view arthritis as being caused by a blockage of qi in that area. Without qi, the balance of yin and yang is disrupted and thus your joint becomes vulnerable.

This blockage is associated with the bones, and thus is called Bone Bi. As an environmental blockage, Bone Bi is typically caused by the invasion of wind, cold or dampness. These environment elements penetrate your bones, muscles and joints, leading to pain and reduced mobility.

TCM treatments for osteoarthritis

To treat osteoarthritis, TCM uses Meridian theory to determine how to eliminate the pathogenic factors. In particular, a combination of acupuncture, Tui Na and Chinese medicine for joint pain along with other lifestyle guidelines will be prescribed. The aim of TCM in treating osteoarthritis is to relieve pain and stiffness. Subsequently, the range of motion of the affected joint should be restored.

Chinese Herbs

tcm herbs displayed on shelf

Based on the type of blockage diagnosed by the TCM practitioner, a combination of herbal remedies may be prescribed. Common herbs used are aloe vera, Boswellia, cat’s claw, eucalyptus, ginger, green tea, thunder god vine, turmeric and willow bark. These ingredients help to introduce Calcium L-aspartate, Type II collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, methylsulfonylmethane and bromelain that are critical to joint health.

Given the nature of osteoarthritis, there are several components that can be treated using Chinese herbs. These include:

  • Reliving neurons and pain pathways
  • Reduce regional inflammation
  • Improve joint circulation
  • Relaxation of joint muscles
  • Collagen synthesis

Acupuncture

The practice of acupuncture involves the skilled insertion of needles into the affected joints. Due to the precise pressure applied, blockages are reduced, thus allowing for the flow of qi and blood flow to resume. Once blood and qi are able to flow through the joint, discomfort, inflammation and stiffness will start to subside.

Each session of acupuncture may vary wildly. For example, the length, frequency and techniques used may be different. Nonetheless, typical sessions last anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you can expect to receive treatment at least once or twice a week. Thankfully, some of your symptoms will be alleviated after the first treatment. Subsequently, you can expect gradual progress.

Tai Chi

Simply put, without exercise, your joints would become stiffer and weaker. A cycle then starts where you are increasingly discouraged from exercising. This is where intervention in the form of  Tai Chi comes in. Tai Chi is a progressive exercise that helps to improve the flow of Qi in your body while building both strength and flexibility.

Lifestyle

Given TCM’s holistic view of our health, it is natural that changes to our lifestyle would be prescribed. Depending on the imbalanced identified in your body or the excess of elements, a lifestyle change could help to tip the scales in a favourable fashion.

What to expect when consulting a TCM practitioner?

tcm practitioner conducting assessment of patient

Unlike western medicine, TCM views the body as an integrated whole or system. An imbalance in one part of your body can lead to painful or harmful symptoms showing up in another part. This is why, TCM sessions typically start with a comprehensive assessment of your health. To inform the practitioner, he or she may ask and check you for:

  • Pain, symptoms or conditions you are experiencing
  • Nonverbal cues such as bodily sounds, voice, demeanour
  • Tongue appearance
  • Pulse rate
  • Temperature
  • Skin tone
  • Muscle composition

Placing the signs in the context of TCM

Based on these signs and symptoms, the practitioner will determine a pattern of disharmony. In particular, which part of your body has an imbalance of yin and yang elements. Thereafter, he or she would prescribe a treatment to bring the balance back.

Given this context, we can infer that prescribed treatments may differ largely from patient to patient. This is unlike in western medicine, where the same medication is likely to be prescribed for a single condition. In contrast, in TCM, a single condition may be due to disharmony in different body parts. As such, the treatment needed to address the different parts would be differ.

Trust Tong Jum Chew For All Your TCM Needs

Tong Jum Chew was founded in 1965 as a medical hall. Since then, it has grown into a manufacturer and distributor of traditional Chinese medicine Singapore health supplements. We boast a modern manufacturing facility in Singapore that includes a clean room environment. All products are produced using modern machinery and undergo stringent checks to ensure that they are safe for consumption or usage.