What is Arthritis?

Arthritis encompasses a group of conditions marked by inflammation and pain in the joints. It manifests in various forms, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune condition, and osteoarthritis, resulting from wear and tear. Symptoms include joint stiffness, pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion, significantly impacting daily activities and quality of life. Arthritis can affect one or multiple joints, and while it is more common in adults, it can occur at any age.

How does TCM view Arthritis?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches arthritis as a manifestation of imbalance within the body's Qi (energy), Blood, and organ systems, primarily caused by the invasion of external pathogenic factors such as Wind, Cold, Damp, and Heat.

TCM emphasizes the importance of identifying the underlying pattern of disharmony contributing to arthritis symptoms. This holistic view allows for treatments that not only alleviate symptoms but also address the root cause of the imbalance, aiming to restore the body's harmony and health.

Root Causes of Arthritis in TCM

In TCM, arthritis is often attributed to the obstruction of Qi and Blood flow due to the invasion of pathogenic Heat, Wind, Cold orDamp. For example, Excess-Heat patterns may present with symptoms like fever, flushed face, red skin eruptions, irritability, and thirst alongside joint pain and swelling.

Cold-Damp patterns, conversely, manifest as pain that worsens with cold weather, accompanied by heaviness and stiffness in the joints. These conditions reflect an imbalance in the body's natural state, necessitating targeted interventions to expel the pathogenic factors and restore equilibrium.

Explore below more details about what might cause Arthritis according to TCM.

  • By Syndrome
  • Heat
Detailed description of the cause


In TCM "Heat" signifies an excess of Yang energy, leading to an imbalance where heat predominates over the body's cool Yin aspects. This condition is metaphorically akin to an internal over-heating. Symptoms indicative of Heat can include feelings of warmth, fever, sweating, irritability, red face, thirst with a preference for cold drinks, and a rapid pulse. The tongue may appear red with a yellow coating. Unlike the common interpretation of heat in terms of temperature, in TCM, it represents a state of hyperactivity or inflammation in the body.... see more

Heat Patterns That Can Lead to Arthritis

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Excess-Heat Arthritic symptoms, Fever, Flushed face, Red skin eruptions, Mottled skin, Irritability, Thirst, Arthritis, Constipation, Scanty and dark urine, Lupus... see more Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang

TCM Herbal Formulas for Arthritis

To combat arthritis, TCM prescribes formulas based on the specific pattern of disharmony. For conditions marked by Excess-Heat, formulas like Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, which includes key herbs such as Water Buffalo Horns, are used to cool the Blood and clear Heat, reducing inflammation and pain.

This approach is tailored to the individual's symptoms and underlying imbalances, utilizing the holistic nature of TCM to not only alleviate discomfort but also to prevent future recurrences by harmonizing the body's internal environment.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address arthritis, organized by cause and by formula type.

  • By Cause
  • By Formula Type
  • Heat
  • Formulas that dispel wind-Damp
  • Formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation
  • Formulas that warm and transform water and dampness
  • Formulas that clear wind-Cold
  • Formulas that warm the meridians and disperse cold
  • Formulas that clear nutritive-level heat
  • Formulas that nourish yin and tonify
  • Formulas that regulate blood
  • Formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness
  • Formulas that dredge and disperse external wind

All "formulas that dispel wind-Damp" recommended for arthritis

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Da Fang Feng Tang Not applicable
Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang Not applicable
Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang Not applicable
Juan Bi Tang Not applicable
Xuan Bi Tang Not applicable

All "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation" recommended for arthritis

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang Not applicable
Dang Gui Shao Yao San Not applicable

All "formulas that warm and transform water and dampness" recommended for arthritis

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Fu Zi Tang Not applicable
Zhen Wu Tang Not applicable

All "formulas that clear wind-Cold" recommended for arthritis

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Jiu Wei Qiang Huo Tang Not applicable
Ma Huang Tang Not applicable

All "formulas that warm the meridians and disperse cold" recommended for arthritis

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Wu Tou Tang Not applicable
Huang Qi Gui Zhi Wu Wu Tang Not applicable

Acupoints for Arthritis

TCM also incorporates acupuncture as a vital component of arthritis treatment. Acupoints such as Dazhu BL-11 are strategically targeted to nourish Blood, expel Wind, strengthen the bones, and descend Lung Qi, directly addressing the root causes of arthritis symptoms.

Located on the Bladder channel, Dazhu BL-11 plays a crucial role in TCM treatments for arthritis, offering a non-invasive method to enhance the flow of Qi and Blood, thereby reducing pain and stiffness in the joints. This integrated approach underscores TCM's comprehensive strategy in managing arthritis, emphasizing the restoration of balance and the promotion of natural healing.

Explore below some acupoints used to address arthritis, organized by meridian.

  • By Meridian
  • Bladder Channel
  • Triple Burner Channel
Dazhu BL-11

Dazhu BL-11

On the level of the lower border of the spinous process of the 1st thoracic vertebra (T1), 1.5 cun (about 2 finger-breadths) lateral to the posterior midline.

Xiaoluo TB-12

Xiaoluo TB-12

On the line joining the olecranon and Jianliao TB-14, midway between Qinglengyuan TB-11 and Naohui TB-13, 5 cun proximal to the olecranon. It is just on the lower end of bulge of the lateral head of triceps brachii when the forearm is in pronation.