Getting to the Root of Arthritis

Arthritis pain

With arthritis affecting over 10 million people in the UK, RCHM member practitioners provide an important line of support for those suffering from this illness.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. It affects people of all ages, including children.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the 2 most common types with Osteoarthritis being the most common type in the UK.

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease worldwide, affecting an estimated 10% of men and 18% of women over 60 years of age.[1]

It is estimated that 8.75 million people aged over 45 years in the UK have sought treatment for osteoarthritis. The proportion of adults in England diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis has increased by at least 40% between 2004 to 2020.[2]

Osteoarthritis can be associated with deterioration in the tissues of joints often including the smooth cartilage lining. This can further contribute to inflammation leading to difficulty with movement, pain and stiffness. The most commonly affected joints are those in the hands, spine, knees and hips.

Rheumatoid arthritis is less common that osteoarthritis. It often starts between the ages of 30 and 50 and women are more likely to be affected than men. In Rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling. In addition to these two types there are a number of others including gout, ankylosing spondylitis, cervical spondylosis, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis and polymyalgia rheumatica.[3]

What are the symptoms of Arthritis?

Due to the many different kinds of arthritis, the symptoms experienced can vary depending on the type. Symptoms can include

  • Joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • Inflammation in and around the joints
  • Restricted movement of the joints
  • Warm red skin over the affected joint
  • Weakness and muscle wasting

Conventional treatments include pain relief medications, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections and physiotherapy. A great many patients will persist to have chronic long term symptoms of arthritis despite these interventions.

The treatment of Arthritis using Chinese Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture have long been used to treat pain and the associated symptoms of inflammation present in arthritis. The treatments given are tailored to each patient’s particular needs.

A Chinese medical diagnosis is made following a detailed consultation which takes into account the function and any dysfunction in all of the systems of the body.
Chinese medicine practitioners seek to recognise the underlying basis of the disease. There may have been a time due to overwork, or illness, physical trauma or exposure to weather conditions that have enabled the disease over time to take form in the joints, which can result later in inflammation, swelling, deformation, and degeneration.

Symptoms are often caused by blockages in circulation within the body that are in turn caused by climatic factors such as Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat and Dryness. Weaknesses and deficiencies in the patient can lead to them becoming more susceptible to these climatic influences. 

Following Consultation with a fully trained Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioner a Differential Diagnosis of the type of Arthritis, would be arrived at. Potential Chinese medicine diagnoses include ‘Wind, Cold or Damp Painful Obstruction Syndrome’, ‘Blood Stasis’, ‘Qi Stagnation’.

A Chinese herbal formula is then composed to match the requirements of the patient. For example if the pain of a patient gets worse on a cold day, this would be a sign of cold and the practitioner may add more warming herbs to relieve the pain.

Herbal formulas can be taken internally as a tea or applied externally in pastes, oils, liniments and soaks.

The following pages provide an insight into the treatment of arthritis with Chinese Herbal Medicine including the extensive research into this condition. We hope that patients suffering from this distressing chronic condition will feel confident in seeking the help of one of our many highly qualified RCHM practitioners for the treatment of their arthritis.

RCHM practitioners are required to meet minimum standards of training and professional, safe and ethical practice. The RCHM audits herbal suppliers for safety, ethics and sustainability meaning that patients can be re-assured that the herbs that our member practitioners are legal and safe for use.

You may find a practitioner near you by searching our directory here.