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(Article) Treatment for Arthritis Pain

Acupuncture for Arthritic Pain


Li Bing Mei, Senior Physician


Arthralgia (joint pain) is generally categorized as “impediment disease” in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Knees, hips, shoulders and wrists are commonly affected. Typical TCM treatment for arthritic pain utilizes acupuncture, herbal medicine and TuiNa according to individual condition and differential diagnosis. Subtypes of “impediment disease” include, but not limited to, migratory arthritis, painful arthritis, gouty arthritis, inflammatory arthritis and degenerative arthritis. Many acute joint pain falls under the inflammatory subtype. The joint is very sore, red, warm and swollen. Icing often provides temporary relief. On the other hand, arthritides of the degenerative subtype are usually chronic and more common among seniors. It presents as extremity weakness, dull achiness of the joints, and sometimes numbness and tingling. Treatment should focus on nourishing Qi (vital energy) and blood, and unblocking meridians, reinforced by muscle relaxants.


Acupuncture is most effective at treating arthritic pain. Electro-acupuncture and moxibustion are especially beneficial for pain relief and meridian clearance. The choice of acupoints is highly dependent on individual condition and site of the affected joint. For example, the following acupoints are commonly used in treating knee arthritis: DuBi (ST35), HeDing (EE-LE2), XiYangGuan (GB33), ZuSanLi (ST36), YangLingQuan (GB34), in conjunction with distant acupoints, such as ShenShu (BL23), GanShu (BL18) and GuanYuan (CV4). Although the locations of distant acupoints may seem irrelevant to the knee problem, they are stimulated to address underlying causes. In addition, herbal formula “DuHuo JiSheng Tang” may also be prescribed to improve muscle performance, alleviate symptoms and prevent disease progression.