Introduction

Osteoarthritis is a common inflammation conditions happened in a joint.  The inflammation causes a painful, swollen and stiff joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK.

Osteoarthritis happens more commonly in the late 40s onwards and more significantly in women. Many factors may relate to the development of osteoarthritis, such as deterioration of the protective cartilage on the ends of the joint bones due to age, obesity, joint injuries and genetic factors. 

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, including knees, hips, spine, hands and feet. But most commonly affected joints are the knees, hips and hands. The symptoms of joint pain and stiffness may come and go in episodes depending activity levels and sometime the weathers. Some patients may experience more continuous and severe problems.

Treatments in conventional medicine include symptom relief treatments such as pain killers or anti-inflammation drugs, and in more severe cases, surgery can be done.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) believes that functional weakness of internal organs plus environmental factors such as wind, cold and dampness which invade the body causing blockage of the Qi (body energy) movement and the blood circulation. As a result of the blockage, pain, swollen and stiffness in the joints will happen. These conditions are named as Bi-syndrome in Chinese medicine

Treatments in Chinese medicine include herbal formulas and acupuncture. Traditional Chinese medicine uses holistic approach to treat osteoarthritis based on individual conditions. A TCM practitioner will take factors such as lifestyle, general body conditions (eg, appetite, sleep, digestions and bowel movement etc.) into account in addition to those joints related symptoms in the treatment of osteoarthritis.  Based on the symptoms manifested, there are four main patterns of Bi syndrome differentiated as

  1. Wind Bi characterized by moving pain
  2. Cold Bi characterized by fixed pain
  3. Damp Bi characterized by swollen, heaviness and numbness in limbs and joints
  4. Heat Bi characterized by severe pain and hot-red-swollen joints

Accordingly, differentiated treatments will be taken to treat the different conditions.  The major TCM treatments of osteoarthritis include acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Clinical studies have shown clear effectiveness and benefits of acupuncture (Manyanga et al 2014; Corbett et al 2013) and Chinese herbal recipes (Teekachunhatean et al 2004; Tao et al 2009; Lai et al 2007) in treatment of osteoarthritis.

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References:

Corbett MS, Rice SJC, Madurasinghe V, Slack R, Fayter DA, Harden M, Sutton AJ, MacPherson H, Woolacott NF  (2013) Acupuncture and other physical treatments for the relief of pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee: network meta-analysis.   Osteoarthritis Cartilage.  21(9): 1290–1298. doi:  10.1016/j.joca.2013.05.007

Lai Jung-Nien, Chen Huey-Jeng, Chen Chao-Chung, Lin Jer-Huei, Hwang Jing-Shiang, Wang Jung-Der (2007) Duhuo Jisheng Tang for treating osteoarthritis of the knee: a prospective clinical observation Chinese Medicine, 2:4 doi:10.1186/1749-8546-2-4

Manyanga T, Froese M, Zarychanski R, Abou-Setta A, Friesen C, Tennenhouse M, Shay BL  (2014) Pain management with acupuncture in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis.  BMC Complement Altern Med.  14:312. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-312.

Tao QW, Xu Y, Jin DE, Yan XP (2009) Clinical efficacy and safety of Gubitong Recipe () in treating osteoarthritis of knee joint.  Chin J Integr Med.  15(6):458-61. doi: 10.1007/s11655-009-0458-4.

Teekachunhatean S, Kunanusorn P, Rojanasthien N, Sananpanich K, Pojchamarnwiputh S, Lhieochaiphunt S, Pruksakorn S  (2004) Chinese herbal recipe versus diclofenac in symptomatic treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN70292892]. BMC Complement Altern Med.  4:19.