Osteoarthritis: Modern Western Discoveries, Ancient Chinese Insights, Part II

Unlike the Western medical quest for answers at the microscopic level, ancient Chinese doctors sought an elegant model, derived from the study of nature, that would accurately explain the clinical features of osteoarthritis. Their investigations led to the concept of bi zheng, or impediment pattern, a theory that provides insight into the origins and presentation of arthritis. This traditional model not only fits with the clinical symptoms of osteoarthritis, it also offers pragmatic solutions beyond pain management.

In ancient China, as today, arthritis tended to develop with aging. The Chinese concluded that the prevalence of osteoarthritis among the elderly stems from a degeneration of anatomical structure and function, resulting in increased vulnerability to the elements. This theory explains why individuals who tend to be habitually weak or chronically ill often experience accelerated arthritic changes.

Many arthritis patients report exacerbation of pain and joint stiffness in response to cold, damp weather. Inexplicable from a Western structural point-of-view, mainstream medicine frequently dismisses this crucial symptom. In Chinese medicine, however, this finding gave rise to the hypothesis that elemental pathogens of wind, cold, and dampness, exploiting a body compromised by aging, catalyze the break down of our joints. This discovery shed light on the origin of arthritis and pointed to possibilities for effective treatments.

The method of dispelling wind-cold-damp is the primary strategy used in Chinese medicine. The efficacy of the Western medical treatments of hot compresses and physical therapy, both of which dispel cold and dampness, support this approach. Good clinical outcomes of Chinese medical treatments for arthritis, verified by lengthy clinical experience and recent research, also confirm the value of the traditional Chinese understanding of osteoarthritis.

In contrast to Chinese medical care that can not only provide relief but also slow the progression of arthritis, the Western medical standard-of-care The detrimental effects of NSAID’s on the stomach and liver and the cardiovascular dangers of some COX-2 selective inhibitors are well known. Considering the fact that the road of pain management often ends in surgery to replace dysfunctional joints, the proposition that long-term pain management contributes to joint degeneration is all too plausible.