Arthritis, The Chinese Medicine Perspective
In the west, there are a lot of misconceptions about arthritis. Most of us would believe that if we turn up with arthritis we are just the unlucky ones. Western medicine would have us believe that the pain we experience is truly the absence of pain medication. But as we all know, pain is the alarm that goes off when the body is suffering some sort of injury or disruption to its normal function.
Who Gets Arthritis
Admittedly, there are some who are more prone, somewhat more genetically predisposed to arthritis. But even western medicine is backing off from the supposition that because Aunt Milly was riddled with it that you must also be the victim. While the statistics related to genetics should be no more than 4–6% of the population, 20–30 % were claiming the rights to their sickness according to family, genetic association.
There are two basic divisions to the appearance of arthritis, deficiency or excess. A deficiency is a representation that there is not enough substantive energy and absorption to suffice for the needs of the bones and joints. At this point, most people pipe up that they take calcium and magnesium as if these were the only factors. Actually, there are a multiplicity of factors.
Dietary and Absorption Factors In Arthritis
We find that a lot of people don’t absorb Vitamin C for instance. Without Vitamin C as a coenzyme, we have a hard time absorbing either calcium or iron. Lots of people don’t absorb Calcium or magnesium either. This can also be true of mineral absorption in general. Therefore collagen and bone formation may become impeded or not keep up with bodily need.
Beyond the ability to absorb needed elements of our diet, lots of people don’t eat to the needs of their growth or maintenance of health. Lots of needed elements leach out with stress, cigarettes, sugar consumption, coffee consumption. Even the vicissitudes of winter may drain our resources faster than we can replace them. Moreover, the typical western diet with its prepared and packaged food mentality is probably most to blame.
Arthritis, A Cultural Problem?
One of my early teachers, Dr. Anton Jayasuria, who taught and worked in Sri Lanka, laughed when he said that he became a rheumatologist when he went off to study medicine in Britain to please his father. He felt that he could return to Sri Lanka and continue to play since there was no such thing as arthritis there at that time. However, by the time he returned home, the western diet had already exacted its toll, and he started to become swamped. That’s when he left for acupuncture study in China and later added homeopathy because he knew that western medicine was aimed at pain control, but ‘cures’ were to be found elsewhere.
There are many factors to diet and in most cases, we do exactly the wrong thing, but to reiterate what many health advisors have already said, ”the wealthiest nations on earth and we’re starving.”
Kidney Energy and Arthritis
Chinese Medicine says that the base energy of the body kidney energy (see pamphlet: Kidneys in Support of Everything). In Chinese medicine we consider the degeneration or lack of kidney energy to be the source of bone pain. This kind of joint and bone pain would happen firstly, in the areas of the low back or below the waist, knees or ankles. It would be fairly chronic in nature. I see this type of patient all too often. They are hard to convince that ultimately, their chronic pain is attributable to not having enough energy.
They wonder how that can be when a trip to the chiropractor can make it feel better for a couple of hours. And yet, when they take herbs or have energy treatments for a time, the pain will stay away until they let themselves get depleted again. The Chinese kidney and the physiological kidney that we know are not the same things. We call it that in western nomenclature because when it is weak, we fail to control the flow of water. In a less dynamic body or kidney deficient body, water or dampness, puddles in the joints like the lowest points on the road after a rainstorm. Just like these puddles, with any length of time sitting stagnant, things will start to grow.
Arthritis and Blocked Energy
In Chinese medicine, we would say that where you have a running stream, nothing grows, but where you have a pond, everything grows. These stopping points in the stream of energy, the joints, can have a fairly high bacterial load. In particular, these bacteria can feed on collagen material and erode the things good joints are made of. Overall it is the lack of energy or dynamism of the body that allows this to happen.
Kill the Germ Theory
Dr. Gabriel Merkin, the eminent radio doctor, makes no bones about heavy duty use of antibiotics over the course of a year or two as a therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Sadly, extended use of antibiotics can lead to a multitude of problems down the line including cancer, so you don't want to have to go this way.
We also say that external forces can attack us anytime our energies or blood qualities are low. These would be equivalent to wind, cold, dampness or heat. This is called Painful Obstruction Syndrome and largely amounts to a deficiency problem that is surmounted by external forces.
Excess Obstruction Syndromes
What I would describe as a true excess obstruction syndrome happens when the energies are adequate or over-charged. They may only be blocked in the meridians where the individual organ energies run. This is mostly in regards to whether one blocks on one side or another. If you block more on the right you would have some stuckness of energy around the liver or gallbladder and on the left, more likely the stomach or spleen.
Most of these excess type joint problems start as aches or pains around the joint. At this time it can be related to tendon or ligament pain before the joint, itself, is affected. It still represents a cutting off of energy to that area. However, if this continues for a long time it can become bone and joint blockage. This is what eventually will amount to an arthritic condition.
Fixing The Problem
Lots of people come in and simply want me to stick a needle into every joint that hurts. It is simply everyone’s conception of how things are done. This actually gives some amelioration but does little to keep the pain from returning. The idea here is to find out where the body is going wrong and redirect it to function more correctly. In Chinese Medicine, we call this the root or the branch. The root is, of course, the causative source and the branch is ultimately where it hurts. If we were the arborist trying to fix a branch on a tree, we could keep cutting off the offending branches. Even then, we may watch the tree ultimately die because we did not feed the tree what it needed at the roots.
When energy and blood are enough and free flowing, there is no pain. When it is blocked and insufficient our pain signals will go off. Many people come in and tell me that their low back or upper neck is incurable because it has some form of visible osteoarthritis. When we are able to supplement the proper energies or clear the blockages they don’t feel the pain. But they also don’t trust that it is anything more than a temporary fix.
I tell them that we will just stay on top of it and not to worry about what the x-ray is telling them. When you give yourself over to pain management drugs completely, you are only saying that you absolve ultimate responsibility. Eventually, the degeneration will continue past the point where even the medications cannot begin to manage it.