TCM treatment of
I. Arthritis – Conventional Medicine
Arthritis is a term used by conventional
medicine to describe a clinic phenomenon, in which patients feel
pain on joints, swelling, stiffness, or numbness. Patients may
also feel fever or cold on the joints. The reasons for arthritis
are listed more than twenty whereas the treatment is hardly
satisfied. The pain can be reduced with pain killer, or with
aspirin-kind of anti-inflammation drugs, for a short time.
Whereas the gastric side effects of such drugs make patients
hardly to have them for long time. Later doctors may have to
apply cortisone injection into the joints and the release of
pain again can only last for about months. Basically, the
treatment of arthritis in the internal medicine as a whole, is
promising process. In clinic, we found that
many people have had surgical treatment for their arthritis on
the hip joints or on the knee. It may be good for some patients.
But, if it failed, the later treatment becomes difficult with
the same surgery or with the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
as well, since the structure of the joints have been changed.
II. Arthritis – Traditional Chinese
(1). Common Diagnosis system
In the TCM system, the clinic manifest of
pain, swelling, stiffness, disformation in joints, is called Bi
syndrome. It is not a unique disease identity either. It is
believed to be an accumulation of disease-causing factors, such
as Fire, Cold, Wetness, Wind, alone or in combination, in the
joints. Depending on the reason of the Bi syndrome, the
patient’s feeling on the joints is also different.
Here are examples:
(a). Re Bi. Re here means Hot in Chinese.
person with the Re Bi feels hot in the affected joints. The skin
on the affected joints turns red or touch hot. He likes cold on
the joints, since cold patch or ice patch could release the pain
for a short time. He does not like touch on the joints. The
joint movement is limited, mostly because the pain. If the pain
is released, the movement is restored. Most of acute rhomatoid
arthritis shows this type of Re Bi.
(b). Xin Bi. Xin means Wind, means moving
in Chinese. The pain feels in this joint today, but it may move
to other joints next day. Joints feel stiff and the joint
movement is limited. Xin Be is caused mostly by Wind. You see,
the wind is moving, not stays in a fixed location. For this type
of Bi, release of pain may not restore the movement of joints
(c). Tong Bi. Tong means pain in Chinese.
It means that the Bi syndrome is very painful compare with other
kind of Bi syndrome. Patients like warm and hot on the joints.
pain spot is fixed location, as the “ice”
fixed on the joints. The skin on the affected joints is not red,
but even pale and touched cold.
(d). Zhe Bi. Zhe means stiff in Chinese
here. It means that the joints feel heavy, sour, or swelling.
The skin feel numbness, and the hands or feet feel heavy.
(e). Tan Bi. Tan means phlegm here in
Chinese. You know the phlegm out of your lung when you cough. It
is a narrow concept of the Phlegm. In the TCM, Phlegm can stay
and move in all of the body, causing various problem. For
example, if the Phlegm moves and stays in the brain, it causes
stroke. If it is in the heart, it causes the coronary heart
disease. If it moves to the ovary, it causes the ovary cysts.
Here it causes joint pain and heavy feeling. The treatment will
be somehow hard with this kind of Bi syndrome.
The above diagnosis is only one diagnosis
system in the TCM. In clinic, it is usually not so easy to make
the diagnosis, since the clinic picture could be too simple as
that patient only feels slight pain or ache and there is nothing
more that allows the doctor to make a clear diagnosis. Sometime,
and quite often, the ache in the joints is only a part of some
other severe problems in the body. Diagnosis on the joint pain
is not so important and the conventional TCM effort for the
joint pain treatment is neither so satisfied.
(2). Alternative TCM Diagnosis system
We usually adapt another TCM diagnosis
system. It is the syndrome diagnosis system. It regards the
feeling on the joints as only a part of the body and a diagnosis
needs the data collection from the whole body. This diagnosis
system derived from a very famous TCM bible, the <<Shan Han Lun>>.
It is also called the Liu Jin Bianzhen. Liu means number six,
and the Jin, the meridian. Bianzhen means diagnosis. So it means
six-meridian diagnosis systems. In this diagnosis system, there
is no position of the Lung, one of the five organs (e.g. Heart,
Spleen, Liver, Kidney and the Lung). This might be due to the
fact that, the Lung is like a bell, that can be beaten to ring
by factor out and inside of the body. To solve problem in the
Lung, such as cough, phlegm, chest pain, one has to pay much
attention where the disease-causing factors come from. From out
side, such as the Fire, Wetness, Wind, Cold, Dryness, or from
the inside of the body, such as phlegm, Qi deficiency, Blood
stagnation, etc.. Since the functions of the large intestine,
skin, and the joints are all linked more to the Lung, disorders
in the skin (such as skin rash, allergic reaction, psoriasis),
in the large intestine (such as constipation, diarrhea), or the
joints (arthritis) have to seek the reasons from other systems
and out and inside of the body too. This is unique in the Lung
system in this diagnosis system.
Based on the syndrome diagnosis system, the
herbs used for the treatment are not the commonly used for the
joint problem, whereas according to our clinic experience, the
healing effect is marvelous. For example, one may have fever,
sweat, little chilling, plugged nose, little sour throat, and
ache in the joints for some days. The herbs we are applying
could work within 20 minutes for all of these symptoms, whereas
in the herbal formula, there are no any herb ingredients that
belong to the one that is usually used for joint pain.
If you are not familiar with the TCM
diagnosis, you may not be interested to know all of the above in
detail. However, what you need to know is that each TCM doctor
is different in many aspect. You need not surprise if your new
TCM doctor use different herbs or different ways of acupuncture
for your treatment.
III. Clinic effects
In our clinic, we use acupuncture, herbal
therapy, suction cupping, moxibustion, or bleeding therapy for
the arthritis. The overall clinic effective rate can be
summarized as high as more than 90%. However, each client is
very different. Someone get rid of the pain faster than others.
It can be as quick as only one treatment, but it can also be as
many as 10 to 20 times of treatment.
IV. Factors affect the healing
(1). Continuous damage to the affected
The most common reasons for the slow
achievement are, as we mentioned again and again, that one
continues heavy physical exercise or labor works during the
treatment. If you pain is caused by too much physical activity,
how you can expect release of the pain by TCM or other therapy?
(2). Use of Cold patch.
Someone continues the use of ice patch, or
continues work in a very cold environment, such as cold room,
outside of room in winter, or have too much physical exercise
out of the room in winter. All of these continues the damage to
the joints and slow down the recovery. Note: the use of ice
patch may make the pain into chronic!
(3). Too much intake of chemical drugs.
Another common error is the continuous
heavy intake of artificial vitamins and minerals during TCM
treatment. So often, I asked my clients, how long they have had
the vitamins and minerals, and if they feel any improvement for
the arthritis by taking such chemicals. The answers from 9 out
of 10 clients will be “Oh, for several years already. I am not
sure any good feeling yet.” See, why you want to take something
for many years that did not make you feel any improvement?
I am not to discourage you not to take such
things, but if you have already tried it for so many years, why
you want continue to “try”? The TCM therapy never asks our
client to take herbs for so long time so as to tell if it works.
So many times, I asked my client simply
stop the take of vitamins and minerals for one week and see how
they feel. The result commonly is: they feel much better than
(4). Previous surgical operation on the
Another reason that may contribute to lower
success is the fact that one has had surgical
operation before on the joints. The highest
number of the surgical operation for one of my clients is 34
times of surgical operations! You can image how many scar tissue
on his body. If the surgery works, it is good. Every one feels
happy. If it fails, it makes later trouble for the TCM to work
too. Therefore, always try a conservative therapy before take
the suggestion for surgery. It is not your mistake that you did
not try the TCM before, since we know that it is not available
yet in the community in the North America. But it is your mistake now if you did not
try it before the surgery.
(5). Too long time interval between the
It is usually recommended to have the
acupuncture treatment twice a week in the first two weeks. Then
it may become once a week later, depending on the reaction of
the healing effects. This is minimum request. However, some
people cannot follow this schedule for various reasons.
Every people should understand that the
effect of acupuncture is not more than 24 hours, based on
research observation. The effects of the acupuncture are to
trigger out the healing mechanism of the body per se. Before
body healing ability is restored, acupuncture has to be repeated
frequently until the body can maintain the good effect by
itself. This is just as to start a heavy truck: we have to give
more gas from beginning until it starts run. Then it needs only
little gas by little to maintain running. This is the same for
an acupuncture treatment.
(6). Take one therapy but refuse
We use acupuncture, herbs, suction cupping,
bleeding therapy, and others to reach the best and fastest
healing results. From time to time, there are clients who refuse
one or more of our therapies for some reasons. For example, he
may not want to have acupuncture since he cannot tolerate the
pain. Or he refuses herbal therapy since it tastes bitter.
Someone likes suction cupping, some not. Someone does not care
the pain in the ear when we use the bleeding therapy, some
others do. We usually remind people that, we have two hands to
help you, but you only want I use one hand. What should we say
to you? Make a smart decision.