Traditional Chinese Medicine and Rheumatoid Arthritis: how looking beyond Western medicine can help manage and alleviate your symptoms


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is just one of approximately 80 different types of autoimmune diseases that affect nearly 50 million Americans today.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system begins attacking healthy tissues in the body. With RA, the immune system will attack joint tissues sending white blood cells to the joint lining causing inflammation. Those living with RA will experience warmth, redness, swelling and pain around small and large joints. Without proper diagnosis and treatment RA can begin to damage the cartilage and bone within the joint in as little as one to two years. Over time, one’s skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood and nerves may also be affected.

Unfortunately RA is a chronic disorder for which there is no cure. Although one might experience pain free periods, symptoms can worsen significantly over time and may never go away. Fortunately, traditional Chinese medicine can be extremely beneficial in managing RA and preventing its associated symptoms including chronic pain, loss of functionality and disability.

In traditional Chinese medicine RA is considered to be a bi syndrome – meaning one’s qi (energy) and blood are obstructed by wind, cold, dampness or heat. Bi syndromes typically arise due to an imbalance in the body causing one to become more vulnerable to illness or disease. RA generally occurs due to an imbalance in the kidneys or liver.

Acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbs and the practice of Qigong can all assist in effectively managing RA. When forming a treatment plan, it’s imperative that each patient’s symptoms are carefully examined in order to maximize results. Each patient should receive a treatment plan tailored to suit his or her specific needs.

Acupuncture is a great way to relieve the joint pain and stiffness associated with RA and will ultimately help the joints to function in a healthy way and prevent future flare-ups. It will help to balance the body’s qi and build up a natural defense against RA.

A variety of traditional Chinese herbs can also help battle the effects if RA.

A variety of traditional Chinese herbs can also help to relieve the symptoms of RA by nourishing the body’s qi. A combination of herbs may be used depending on the joints affected and symptom differentiation.

Even in Western medicine most patients will be encouraged to participate in exercises including stretching, resistance training and low impact aerobics to help treat RA. Many of the recommended medical exercises will mirror those practiced in traditional Qigong, however Qigong goes beyond movement and teaches patients to focus their intention and harness the energy in the body, helping to balance the qi. The movements in Qigong practice will help keep the joints limber and prevent stiffness associated with inactivity while the mental aspects of Qigong will help the body to reverse any imbalances causing bi syndromes.

If you are suffering from RA, Free Spirit can help formulate a traditional Chinese medicine treatment plan specific to your symptoms and needs.