Hand & Wrist problems
Arthritis is known as ‘Painful Obstruction Syndrome’ in Chinese medicine and is something that acupuncturists commonly treat.
There are several types of arthritis and they are classified according to their symptoms.
‘Wind Bi type’
Joint pain which moves from one joint to the next is known as ‘Wandering Bi Syndrome’ or ‘Wind Bi Syndrome’. ‘Bi’ refers to pain in Chinese. Wind in this context refers to the nature of Wind to move around and to appear and disappear suddenly.
‘Damp Bi type’
Joints, which are visibly swollen, are referred to as ‘Damp Bi Syndrome’. With this type of Painful Obstruction Syndrome (arthritis), several joints maybe affected but is does not wander from joint to joint. ‘Damp’ refers to over-retention of fluid. Fluid which lubricates and nourishes joints is called ‘synovial fluid’ and it is necessary for the proper functioning of the joints. Problems arise when this fluid becomes excessive and so prevents the joint from moving properly and pain results as everything gets stuck.
‘Cold Bi type’
Joints which are cold to touch and frequently swollen too are referred to as ‘Cold Bi Syndrome’. I saw a classic case of Cold Bi type arthritis in York where I studied acupuncture. He was a patient at the clinic and he had been a roofer for 27 years, working outside in cold and windy conditions without wearing protective gloves. His knuckles were very cold and swollen but the rest of his body was warm. Cold had lodged in his knuckles, obstructing the movement of fluids & energy and this resulted in pain.
‘Hot Bi Syndrome’
This type of arthritis is commonly seen with Rheumatoid Arthritis when the joints are notably hot & swollen and very painful.
There are a couple of other types of arthritis; these are ‘Bony Bi syndrome’ and ‘Bi Syndrome due to qi (energy) stagnation’. Bony Bi is late stage arthritis when bony nodules have formed in the joints. Bi syndrome due to qi stagnation is a type of joint pain that moves around a lot and is often associated with stress and emotional turmoil. I have also seen this later type of joint pain with women going through their menopause and acupuncture treatment has been very successful.
Firstly, I would like to point out that although I have classified arthritis into nice neat groups, in clinical practice I often see joint pain which is a mixture, in fact this tends to be the norm rather that the exception.
Different types of arthritis respond differently to acupuncture, however acupuncture is an excellent treatment choice for all types of arthritis because arthritis is characterised by obstruction and acupuncture moves obstruction!
Why do different types of arthritis respond differently to acupuncture?
Well, all joint pain is on the external aspect of the body, along the acupuncture channels. However, there is always a more general (and deeper) systemic imbalance within the body that allows the arthritis to develop. For treatment to be effective both the manifestation (i.e. the joint pain) and the root need to be treated.
Success of treatment depends on how effectively acupuncture can re-harmonise the body. If the arthritic process is very deep-seated then at best, acupuncture may be able to offer pain relief and help prevent the disease from progressing further. If the systemic imbalance is not so severe, or if the patient is strong, then acupuncture maybe able to offer a cure.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This is caused by compression of the medial nerve in the carpal tunnel and refers to a type of ‘Painful Obstruction Syndrome’ in Chinese medicine.
It is an obstruction within the acupuncture channels that flow in the wrist. To treat this, it is important to identify what channels are affected and then palpate along the whole acupuncture channel to find points that are tender. Acupuncture is a good treatment choice for this condition because acupuncture needles inserted in the correct areas are very effective at moving obstructions.
There may also be fluid retention that aggravates the condition. This is common with women leading up to their period. If there is an obvious cyclic pattern then there is likely to be water retention. Acupuncture is effective at regulating the water balance or resolving ‘Damp’ as it is termed in Chinese medicine. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can also occur during pregnancy, which again is caused by excessive water retention and can be corrected with acupuncture treatment.