Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating condition that medical experts are actively working to address. Unfortunately, it is an autoimmune disease that cannot be cured and causes severe pain.
Additionally, it can cause damage to vital organs like the heart and lungs, in addition to joint pain and deformities. Dr. Yuen Oi-lin, a registered traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner in Hong Kong, shares her experience using TCM methods, such as Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, to restore the body’s energy and balance the immune system in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
Immune system attacks the joints
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joints, leading to swelling, pain, and deformity. It usually affects both sides of the body and causes “morning stiffness,” where joints feel particularly stiff upon waking and improve later in the day.
The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are complex, and modern medicine cannot fully explain them. Risk factors include genetics, smoking, obesity, and age, among others.
According to TCM, joint inflammation of all types can be traced back to what was once known as “rheumatism” or “paralysis.”
According to TCM, being exposed to external factors such as wind, cold, and dampness can lead to diseases, and inflammation is the result of their accumulation in the joints.
TCM sees the human body and nature as a whole, so if there is more wind, cold, and dampness in nature, the joints will also be affected, which is why joint pain is often worse on rainy days.
Arthritis can be caused by these conditions as well as by a lack of energy in the body, which TCM refers to as “qi deficiency.” In TCM, “qi” is the energy in the body that is needed for generating blood and circulating it throughout the body to maintain normal organ function, tissue health, and immune system strength. People with qi deficiency may experience fatigue and chronic pain.
The TCM ancient book “Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine” states, “When righteousness remains within the body, the evil cannot find a way through.” Factors that lead to disease, such as excessive wind, cold, dampness, viruses, and bacteria are called “external evils,” and the body’s ability to repel these pathogenic factors is its “righteousness.”
According to Dr. Yuen, when the internal organs and their energy systems in the body are not in harmony, it can lead to a lack of “righteousness,” especially if the kidneys do not have enough qi. Rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis can occur as a result of this deficiency in righteousness.
Women are more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis
It is a known fact that rheumatoid arthritis affects women more than men. According to the Arthritis Foundation, women are three times more likely to develop this disease, especially within the age range of 30 to 60.
Dr. Yuen has explained that women’s qi and blood tend to get depleted during menstruation, childbirth, and menopause, making it easier for wind and cold to sneak in.
Additionally, if women do not take adequate care to keep themselves warm after giving birth, they may catch a cold when bathing or washing their hair. It is also important for girls to avoid wearing navel-baring clothes during menstruation as it can cause dysmenorrhea and, in some severe cases, affect their fertility.
Acupuncture kills inflammation and regulates immunity
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the body’s meridians have a continuous flow of qi. These meridians have specific points called “acupoints,” which can be stimulated through various methods such as acupuncture, moxibustion, and massage.
By doing so, the movement of qi can be regulated, and diseases caused by a lack of circulation through the meridians can be treated.
Moxibustion is particularly useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis as it utilizes the heat generated by burning dry mugwort to warm the acupoints, which in turn warms the meridians and eliminates the negative effects of cold air.
Dr. Yuen noted that common acupoints used to treat rheumatoid arthritis include Shenshu (BL23), Mingmen (Du4), Dazhui (Du14), and Zusanli (ST36). For knee pain, acupuncture can also be performed on the calf area around the knee joint, targeting points such as Dubi (ST35), Xuehai (SP10), and others.
Healing the gallbladder
For self-health care, patients can massage specific acupoints. Dr. Yuen suggests tapping both sides of the thighs to activate the gallbladder meridian, which allows gallbladder energy to flow freely.
This tapping can help remove cold qi and dredge yang qi, which can cause rheumatism.
To properly tap the gallbladder meridian, make fists with your hands and tap both sides of your thighs.
You can do this while standing, sitting, or lying on your side on a bed with your legs bent. It is recommended to perform 200 taps every morning, from the buttocks up to the knee joints, and then repeat the same routine in the evening.
While this practice is easy to do, persistence is key. If you experience pain while tapping, it indicates a blockage in the gallbladder meridian. In such cases, it is recommended to tap more firmly and consistently. Once the blockage is cleared, the pain should reduce.