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the Fibromyalgia, Pain & Swelling of Arthritis
Hong Chen (over 20 yrs experienced)
long-standing fibromyalgia and arthritis pain know well the unpleasantness
of aches, stiffness, and local swelling, all of which are aggravated by
temperature and weather changes. Stiff, painful joints and muscles protest when
asked to sit, stand, climb stairs, carry parcels, or open jars and packages. The
most visible signs of long-standing arthritis can be seen in hands whose fingers
are deformed by enlarged knuckles.
There are tests available to distinguish the various types of
arthritis, for example ESR (arythrocyte sedimentation rate), and rheumatoid
factor in the blood.
Pharmaceutical painkillers for fibromyalgia and arthritis - by prescription or
over-the-counter - have numerous side effects including ulcers, fatigue,
dizziness, memory loss. In her book Asian Health Secrets, Letha Hadady, D.AC.,
say: "Long-term use of blood-thinning or anti-inflammatory medicines damages
vitality. For example, prolonged use of cortisone results in wasting of bone and
connective tissue, and depresses the immune system."
The good news is that the pain of fibromylgia and arthritis can
be relieved by using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapies such as
acupuncture, moxibustion, and Chinese herbs for external use and oral
administration. "Asian herbal treatment," says Hadady, "avoid weakening side
effects because ingredients are combined in order to treat specific problem
areas without weakening the entire body.They combine herbs that take the
painkiller to the pain. Besides the body accepts herbs like food, so that
dietary wastes that aggravate pain can be eliminated. This is uniquely a property of herbal cures."
In terms' of Chinese medicine, when we talk about the cause of fibromylgia and arthritis, we
always involve four basic factors related to nature and our environment -
wind, cold, damp, and heat - and their effect upon the body, so as to understand
between body and nature. The agents of fibromylgia and arthritis are:
- Weather changes: When autumn turns to winter, bringing cold
temperatures and damp, windy days, then our body is easily invaded by one or
more of three elements - cold, wind and damp.
- Living environment: Some people live and work in homes (perhaps a basement) and offices
that are both cold and damp.
- Stress: Mental or emotional stress, and/or fatigue,
plus sweating, leading to invasion by cold, wind or damp, or a combination of
these three elements.
When the body's auto-immune function is lowered, it is subject to
invasion by any of the above-mentioned causes. Blockages of meridians leading to
joints and muscles lead to loss of Chi (energy) while blood circulation
As a result, nutrition in the foods we eat fail to reach affected body parts, leading
to the occurrence and developnent of fibromylgia and arthritis symptoms. In
addition, some people have a Yan (hot) constitution, as opposed to Yin (cold).
If cold, wind and damp invade deeply into the dody, the meridians flowing
through affected joints and muscles can experience further blockage, leading to
swelling, burning and pain.
It is important to distinguish between "cold with wind and
damp" (a.k.a. rheumtoid arthritis), and "heat with wind and damp" (inflammatory joint
pain) types of fibromylgia and arthritis in order to treat the
condition effectively. The former presents symptoms of pain, heaviness,
stiffness, numbness and cold in the affected parts, with pain alleviated with by
hot compresses. The pain can migrate from the shoulder to the wrist, or down
the leg. The "heat with wind and damp" presents
symptoms of swelling, burning and pain, with pain symptoms alleviated
by cold compresses or ice.
Typical methods of diagnosis used by Chinese medicine practitioners
includes a combination of pulse diagnosis (wherein the pulse of each organ is
assessed at the wrist), tongue diagnosis (the tongue is examined for colour,
shape, and types of coating), and assessment of presenting symptoms.
Acupuncture ~ Herbs ~ Moxi ~ Cupping
- The use of acupuncture in treatment of pains, fibromylgia and arthritis
serves to clear blocked meridian channels and drive away stagnant Chi and
restore circulation. Acupuncture also enhances liver and kidney function,
for bone strength is dependent on strong, healthy kidneys, while tendons and
muscles depend on the liver and blood for nourishment. A patient undergoing
acupuncture treatment for arthritis may experience some tingling, distension,
numbness, soreness and heaviness which spreads through the local, affected
area, indicating that the energy channels are open and working once again.
Sometimes the symptoms will worsen temporarily as energy surges through
meridians, but this usually clears within hours of treatment.
- Chinese herbs work to eliminate the symptoms of pains, fibromylgia
and arthritis. For "cold with wind and damp" we will use warming herbs such
as ginger, basil, cloves and cinnamon to remove cold and eliminate wind and
damp symptoms, both internally and externally. For "heat with wind and
damp" type, we employ herbs, internally and externlly, to clear
heat, remove toxins and eliminate "wind and damp." Examples of these cooling
herbs include cumin, lemon, peppermint and dill.
- Moxibustion is another aid to relieve fibromylgia and arthritis pain.
Moxa is a soft, downy herbal material burned on the skin as a
counter-irritant, or on the end of an acupuncture needle to draw blocked
energy from deep inside the body. It is used to warm meridians and remove
cold, wind and damp. It also enhances the effectiveness of acupuncture
- Cupping involves the use of glass cups from
which the air has been removed by fire, creating a vacuum. The
practitioner holds the flame inside the cup for a moment to remove air, and
then the cup is quickly applied to the skin in order to draw the blood to the
surface. This therapy is effective in driving away damp and stagnant Chi
and blood in the affected joints and muscles. It, too, enhances the
effectiveness of acupuncture treatment. ( Cupping often leaves black bruises
on cupped areas for a few days, but it works very well to warm up the body and
- Shiatsu and Tuina therapy, a specialized form of massage which works on
the energy meridians, along with Chi Gong, a form of energy meditation,
allows muscles to relax and relieve pains, and at the same time helps restore
harmony and balance to the body, thereby strengthening the auto-immune
- At 22, Linda had suffered from arthritis for two
years. Her symptoms included pain, stiffness, swelling and defomity of small
joints in hands, feet and ankles, making walking painful and difficult. She
was, however, able to alleviate pain with ice packs. This "heat with wind and
damp" arthritis responded well to the internal and external use of Chinese
herbals. Chinese herbs that have a cooling effect include coriander, fennel,
mint and burdock root. For acupuncture treatment I used very specific points
for pain in her hands, feet and ankles. Following each course of treatment
Linda's symptoms abated and then disappeared. Now she can walk and work
- At 60, Amy had had "heat with wind and damp" type arthritis for 10 years.
It was painful to bend, sit down, stand up, walk and climb stairs. For her, I
used acupuncture, cupping and Chinese herbs. The herbs used externally on her
kness included Rhubarb root and Golden Thread, both known to clear heat and
drive away toxins, wind and damp. After two treatments, the pain and swelling
in both knees had been alleviated. After the eighth treatment, all arthritis
symptoms had disappeared.
- Marion 55, had been plagued with fibromylgia for 20 years. Her
"cold with wind and damp" type included pain, heaviness, numbness and
stiffness in affected parts of whole body muscles. In particular, her shoulders
were painful and "frozen". All symptoms got worse when the weather changed
drastically. I treated this deep-seated, long-standing fibromylfia condition using
acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, shiatsu and Tuina therapy, and Chinese herbs,
both internally and externally. Externlly, the herbs I used for the moxibustion
therapy included wild ginger and clematis, both designed to warm meridians and
drive away cold, wind and damp. Marion responed well to this combination of
therapies and following her symptoms are relieved.
In general, Chinese medicine has enjoyed much success in relieving the pain and other symptoms
of pain, fibromylgia and arthritis. However, sufferers who wish to experience a
complete and long lasting recovery must also become vigilant about changing
their diet (to remove allergenic foods) and lifestyle (avoiding dampness,
Note: this article has been published on
September 1999, issue of Vitality magazine. For more information please contact
Dr. Hong Chen at Chen Acupuncture Herbs Shiatsu Centre, 33 Lowbank (Steeles. E/
Bestview(between bayview and Leslie) /Harrington/Lowbank). Tel: 416 221-9074