ARTHRITIS- makes your heart sink when you hear it as a diagnosis, right? But if you break down the word itself to the nuts and bolts you get: “Arthro” = joint and “itis” = inflammation. If you’ve been labeled arthritic it simply means there is inflammation in the joints, it is not something you must succumb to and stop living your active lifestyle.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis isn’t just one disease, it’s a complex disorder that comprises more than 100 distinct conditions and can affect people at any stage of life. Two of the most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While these two forms of arthritis have very different causes, risk factors, and effects on the body, they often share a common symptom—persistent joint pain.
How is Arthritis Viewed in Traditional Chinese Medicine?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), arthritis arises when the cyclical flow of Qi in the meridians becomes blocked. This blockage is called, “bi” type pain and is widely studied and successfully treated using a combination of acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs. The presence of a blockage is indicated by pain and reduced range of motion. Conditions such as arthritis are therefore called “painful obstruction syndromes” in Chinese medicine. The immediate causes can be environmental – the result of the body being “invaded” by the climatological factors of wind, cold, heat and/or dampness, which are said to penetrate the body’s defenses and lodge in the muscles, tendons and joints.
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine have been found to be extremely effective at treating the pain and inflammation associated with all types of arthritis. The acupuncture points and herbs that are used depend on if the blockage of Qi (arthritis) is caused by the pathogen wind, cold, damp or damp-heat.
Though a generalization, osteoarthritis frequently falls into the categories of wind, cold or damp, while rheumatoid arthritis would be equivalent to heat.
Can Acupuncture Relieve Arthritic Pain?
Yes, in many cases. Acupuncture has been proven to reduce inflammation systemically in the body. When we can clear the “heat” and let the surrounding tissues, ligaments and tendons return to proper size instead of swollen with inflammatory debris we can then help resolve arthritis pain. Once there is less inflammation around the joint, proper synovial fluids can return helping with joint movement and fluidity.
Here are four examples of how acupuncture can help:
1. Acupuncture causes the body to produce chemicals called endorphins, which inhibit the perception of pain. Endorphins are similar to morphine, which is given in Western medicine. The big difference is that endorphins are produced naturally by the patient’s own body. Hence, there are no side effects.
2. Acupuncture works through the nervous system by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
3. Acupuncture deactivates trigger points. Trigger points are tender and extremely reactive areas that develop in the muscles and fascial sheaths of the body. They are often responsible for chronic pain and are frequently found around arthritic joints.
4. Acupuncture also has a very relaxing effect on the mind and body. Since much illness is the result of stress, this relaxation helps to promote the healing process.
How Many Treatments Are Necessary?
Each person is unique. Some people will respond to acupuncture more quickly than others. Most patients should experience some change of symptoms after two to four treatments. Six to ten treatments within a three to five week period is a normal course of treatment, and then the case is re-evaluated. For cases in which joint mobility is restricted or inflammation reoccurs, periodic maintenance treatments are often recommended. Their frequency depends upon the individual’s response to acupuncture.
Lifestyle and Dietary Instructions.
Your diet plays a crucial role in helping you avoid or control arthritis. The first objective of a healthy diet is to help you lose any excess weight. Being overweight can cause additional stress to your joints.
The second way a balanced, varied diet can help ease the pain of arthritis is by providing vitamins and minerals that keep your joints healthy and avoiding “damp” foods such as dairy products and greasy or spicy foods.
If you have arthritis or knee or hip pain, vitamin C and vitamin D can help prevent bone and cartilage destruction. And a multivitamin can help ensure that you always get the nutrition you need.
Here are some other healthy (and delicious) choices to include in your diet:
Ginger – A natural anti-inflammatory, available as powdered extracts in capsules as well as alcohol-based extracts. Follow the dosing directions on the label. Or make tea by combining one-half teaspoon of grated ginger root with eight ounces of boiling water. Cover and steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain and add honey to taste.
Fresh pineapple – Bromelain, an enzyme in pineapple, reduces inflammation. Be sure the pineapple is fresh, not canned or frozen.
Cherries – Recent research has shown that tart cherries are an excellent source of nutrients that may help to reduce joint pain and inflammation related to arthritis.
Fish – Cold-water fish such as salmon and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep joints healthy as well as reduce pain and swelling. If you don’t care for fish, consider supplementing your diet with high quality fish oil capsules.
Turmeric – Another very powerful natural anti-inflammatory. Start incorporating it into your cooking and ask us about our favorite liposomal liquid turmeric that tastes great!
Arthritis is one of those conditions that people assume was handed down genetically, generation after generation and this could not be further from the truth. You did not inherit your Mom’s knees. Everyone has the opportunity to take care of their bodies, reduce inflammation systemically, reduce the inflammatory insults to the body often from foods and stress and stave off or successfully manage arthritis all while slowing further progression.
Come visit us at Integrative Acupuncture so we can help you maintain your active lifestyle and relieve your pain and stress. Call us today! 561-819-0530