CHRONIC JOINT INFLAMMATION IN CONVENTIONAL MEDICINESevere joint pain can incapacitate people, making it impossible for them to exercise or live the life they want to live.
Most people with joint pain are diagnosed with arthritis, which is a general term for a number of different conditions that involve swollen, painful, and/or stiff joints. Other symptoms may include fatigue, fevers, depression and weight gain. The common characteristic of any arthritic condition is inflammation of a joint or more commonly, multiple joints.If left untreated, arthritis can vastly affect one’s quality of life. Severe joint pain can incapacitate people, making it impossible for them to exercise or live the life they want to live.
There are various types of arthritis. The most common types are osteoarthritis, which is an age-related degeneration of joints and rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease. Other common types are gouty arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, infectious or septic arthritis. Another group of arthritis occurs secondary to other diseases, for example psoriasis or inflammatory bowel disease.
Chronic joint inflammation in Chinese medicine
Although chronic joint inflammation may be a relatively new idea to conventional medicine, it’s an old one in Chinese medicine. From Chinese medicine we know a great deal about reducing inflammation and promoting health.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the condition that is congruent with arthritis is called "Bi syndrome". Bi syndrome manifests as pain, soreness, or numbness of muscles, tendons and joints, and is the result of the body being "invaded" by the external climatologic factors of Wind, Cold, Heat, and/or Dampness. The symptoms manifested by the individual depend on which external pathogenic factor is strongest. Another group of Bi syndrome disorders is caused by malnutrition of tendons and muscles due to insufficiency in quality or quantity of energy and Blood. This can be due to overuse of local area of the body resulting in weakness, e.g. through work or sport. Aging plays here an important role, as according Chinese medicine, energy and blood become increasingly depleted with advancing age. Life style is also important, overwork, lack of sleep, excessive sexual activity, lack of exercise are all important factors possibly leading to insufficiency of energy and blood.
According to Chinese medicine, the pathogenic factors that cause ‘Bi syndrome’ (Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat) lodge in the body’s meridians (energy pathways) and obstruct the free flow of energy and blood in those meridians. When blood and energy are not able to flow naturally, they stagnate, causing pain, heat, and other symptoms of illness. Acupuncture and herbal therapy help to open the blockage, balance the energy, and harmonize and move blood. The treatment also focuses on individual imbalances, as one of the basic principles of Chinese medicine is to treat both, the cause and manifestation of the disease.
The four main patterns of Bi syndrome, equivalent of arthritis in Chinese medicine, are following:
Wind diseases in Chinese medicine include both, diseases caused by Wind, and those that manifest with symptoms nature of which is similar to Wind, e. g. they have rapid onset and quick-changing nature. Exposure to wind, especially when one is unprotected and exposed to the wind for a long time, is an important cause of the Wind pattern of arthritis (Wind Bi). Wind pattern is characterized by movement of symptoms from place to place, the pain might be one day in the elbow, next day in the knee, the next in the hip etc. This is the reason why it is sometimes called Wandering Bi. Pain can be widespread involving many joints. Wind Bi can be also accompanied by lumps which move, so called ‘lumps and bumps on move’. Movement of joints is limited, and there is often fever, as well as an aversion to wind, or windy weather.
According to Chinese medicine cold causes contraction and ‘freezing’ resulting in severe stagnation of energy and Blood. That consequently causes severe pain. The Cold pattern of arthritis (Cold Bi) is characterized by severe biting or stabbing pain in a joint or muscle. This pain has a fixed location. There is often limitation in movement of joints. Cold Bi can result from frequent and prolonged exposure to cold, working outside in winter, wearing insufficient clothing etc. The pain can be relieved by applying warmth to the affected area (hot water bottle, electric blanket, hot bath).
The Damp pattern of arthritis (Damp Bi) is characterized by pain, soreness and swelling in muscles and joints. There is also a feeling of heaviness and numbness in the limbs. The pain has a fixed location and can be aggravated by damp weather. It may manifest on a dry day preceding the onset of wet weather and thus patient can foretell weather changes. It can result from living or working in damp conditions, including living in basement, working on or near water, becoming frequently soaked etc.
The Heat pattern of arthritis (Hot Bi) can develop from any of the above three patterns. It is characterized by severe pain and hot-red-swollen joints. Pain is usually worse on pressure. Applying cold to the joints generally relieves the pain. There may be fever that is not alleviated by sweating. Other symptoms include thirst, anxiety, and an aversion to wind.
Chinese medicine has a threefold strategy for treating Bi syndrome. First of all, it provides symptomatic relief by stopping pain. It also deals with the pathogenic factor - Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat or their combination. Moreover, it treats any underlying factors contributing to the development of Bi. This comprehensive strategy addresses the symptoms of arthritis and the underlying causes. Chinese medicine treatment can be used alongside conventional treatments or may be used alone when conventional treatments are ineffective or produce severe side effects.
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