Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are Effective for Treating Arthritis

In the Chinese Medicine model, arthritis correlates to one of a number of classical disease patterns. Most of these patterns fall under the general disease heading of Bi Syndrome. “Bi” loosely translates into English as “pain”, an apt description of the condition, as pain is the primary complaint associated with arthritis.┬áThere are Five Common Bi Patterns.


The common denominator in each of the Bi patterns is a stubborn chronic pain. Depending on the cause of the Bi, the quality of the pain, its intensity and its duration will vary. Some pain is sharp and some is dull. Some is better with pressure, some is worse. Some feel hot to the touch and others respond well to the application of cold. Some are fixed and some are migratory. In Chinese Medicine each of these qualities provides us with importance about the cause of the pain. For instance, if the pain is worse with pressure then it is due to an excess condition and if it is relieved by pressure than it is due to a deficiency.

If the pain is fixed, it is likely to be due to a stagnation. If it effects the lower body more than other aspects, its likely the cause is damp. If it responds well to heat and is worse in the cold weather, then it is due to cold trapped in the body. If it is moving and not fixed, then it is due to wind. And so it goes.

As we can see, arthritis comes in many varieties in Chinese Medicine. The practitioner doesn’t simply make a diagnosis of arthritis. In fact in Chinese Medicine it is likely that the word arthritis will never come up, other than to reference a diagnosis made by a Western practitioner.

Common Questions asked in making a Diagnosis

In assessing a patient and making a diagnosis, the TCM practitioner needs to know the following:

How long has the condition existed?
What is the pain like (Dull or Sharp, etc.)?
What relieves the pain?
What makes it worse?
Is it better or worse at a particular time of day?
Does it improve with use?
Does it respond to heat or cold?
Does it change with the weather, and if so how?
It is fixed or roving?
Where is it located?
Is there any deformity of the joints?

The answer to each of the questions allows the practitioner to begin to understand the underlying cause of the patient’s pain. In TCM there is not one form of arthritis. If it is better with the application of heat, then the condition has an element of cold, if it is worse when it rains or is humid, then it also involves a component of damp. A cold bi is distinct from a hot bi and these conditions require very different treatments.

Other Significant Factors

Other significant factors may include associated symptoms such as a ringing in the ears, diminished hearing and frequent urination. These associated symptoms indicate involvement of a kidney deficiency. If the patient is very pale and has cold hands and feet, it is likely a kidney yang deficiency. If their face is red around the checks, they have dry skin and mouth and suffer from night sweats, then it is likely a kidney yin deficiency.

Each of these pieces of information allows the practitioner to begin to put together the puzzle underlying each patients unique form of arthritis. If the pattern is a kidney pattern, then the practitioner will prescribe a kidney tonic herbal formula. A formula such as Liu Wei Di Huang Tang will be used for Kidney yin deficiency. If the condition includes heat, then it will be modified to address the heat, and of the condition includes an element of cold stagnation, then warm moving herbs will be added.

If you have been diagnosed with Arthritis and seek to learn more about TCM and Bi Syndrome or if you have any questions and would like to discuss your condition with a practitioner, please feel free to contact West Village Acupuncture at +1 917-968-2854.

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