Understanding Arthritis and Joint Pain according to Western and Chinese Medicine.

(Organ names in Chinese medicine differ from Western medicine’s understanding).‚Äč

Arthritis is a common condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is a term used to describe joint pain or joint disease and is often associated with aging. In Western medicine, arthritis is typically managed with medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and physical therapy. However, in Chinese medicine, the focus is on restoring balance in the body and managing symptoms through various approaches.

Western biomedical understanding: In Western medicine, arthritis is broadly categorized into two main types: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of joint cartilage, which can result in inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own joints, leading to pain, inflammation, and joint damage.

Treatment for arthritis in Western medicine typically involves the use of pain-relieving medications such as NSAIDs and physical therapy. In severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be recommended. It is important to note that medication should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Chinese Medical theory: In Chinese medicine, arthritis is believed to be caused by imbalances in the body, specifically in the flow of qi (pronounced “chee”) or vital energy. The imbalance can occur due to various factors, including poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, and trauma.

The approach to managing arthritis in Chinese medicine involves restoring balance in the body by addressing the underlying imbalances that contribute to joint pain. This is done through various approaches, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary changes, and exercise.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to promote the flow of qi and alleviate pain. Herbal medicine is used to support the body’s natural healing abilities and may be tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Dietary changes may include avoiding certain foods that contribute to inflammation and incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into the diet. Exercise, such as tai chi or qigong, can help improve joint flexibility and reduce pain.

Complementary Approach: In managing arthritis and joint pain, a complementary approach may incorporates both Western and Chinese medical perspectives. Western medicine can provide pain relief through medication, physiotherapy or Hydrotherapy, while Chinese medicine can help address underlying imbalances that contribute to joint pain and improve overall health and wellbeing with the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine.

It is important to work with healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable in respective fields to create an individualized treatment plan that is tailored to the specific needs of the individual. Herbal medicine practitioners are well versed on the safe use of herbs alongside the western prescribed medicinals and may offer a more specific and safer approach to wellness than purchasing of the shelf minerals and suppplements without understanding the underlying condition.

In conclusion, arthritis and joint pain can be managed through various approaches in both Western and Chinese medicine. While Western medicine focuses on pain relief, Chinese medicine seeks to restore balance in the body and manage symptoms through various approaches. A complementary approach that incorporates both perspectives can be effective in managing joint pain and improving overall health and wellbeing.


“The Efficacy and Safety of Traditional Chinese Medicine External Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2020.

“A Randomized Controlled Trial of Acupuncture and Cupping for Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis Taking Methotrexate” published in Scientific Reports in 2020.

“Effectiveness and Safety of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2021.

Maciocia, G. (2015). The practice of Chinese medicine: The treatment of diseases with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Churchill Livingstone.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2020). Acupuncture: In depth. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture-in-depth

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2020). Tai chi and qi gong: In depth. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tai-chi-and-qi-gong-in-depth