Osteoarthritisaccording to TCM

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, a common chronic condition, marks the gradual deterioration of joint cartilage. This process leads to the painful and restricted movement of the affected joints, commonly the knees, hips, and fingers. It is characterized by a breakdown of cartilage, changes in the bone, and deterioration of tendons and ligaments, causing pain and stiffness. Unlike other forms of arthritis that involve inflammation, osteoarthritis is primarily associated with wear and tear, making it prevalent among the aging population.

How does TCM view Osteoarthritis?

In contrast to Western medicine's focus on physical wear and tear, Traditional Chinese Medicine interprets osteoarthritis as a disruption of the flow of Qi and Blood within the joints, due to imbalances in the body's fundamental substances and disharmony among its organ systems.

This pathology is typically characterized within TCM by patterns of disharmony, each presenting a distinct constellation of symptoms and underlying imbalances that must be identified for targeted treatment. Addressing the specific TCM pattern rather than the symptomatic joint deterioration alone is considered essential for truly effective management of osteoarthritis.

Causes of Osteoarthritis According to TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine discerns several patterns that may lead to osteoarthritis, focusing on systemic imbalances rather than localized joint wear. For instance, a pattern of Wind-Cold-Damp invading the body can result in joint pain and immobility, akin to the stiffness and swelling seen in osteoarthritis.

Another TCM pattern, Liver and Kidney Deficiency, reflects a deeper root of osteoarthritis, where the body's foundational Yin and Yang energies are depleted, affecting bone health and joint function. These patterns underscore the TCM belief that osteoarthritis symptoms are external manifestations of internal imbalances that must be addressed holistically.

TCM Herbal Formulas for Osteoarthritis

Based on the identified pattern, TCM offers a rich pharmacopeia to treat osteoarthritis. For patterns involving Wind-Cold-Damp, a formula like Bai Zhu Fu Zi Tang, which includes herbs like Prepared aconite to warm the body's interior, may be prescribed.

When osteoarthritis is seen as stemming from Liver and Kidney Deficiency, Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang, with herbs such as Pubescent Angelica Roots, is favored for its ability to nourish the organ systems and dispel pathogenic influences. These formulas, among others, are chosen with precision, seeking not just to alleviate joint pain, but to harmonize the patient's overall energy and restore functional mobility.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address osteoarthritis, organized by formula type.

  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that warm the middle and dispel cold
  • Formulas that dispel wind-Damp
  • Formulas that expel dampness
  • Formulas that dredge and disperse external wind
  • Formulas that warm and transform water and dampness

TCM Herbs for Osteoarthritis

Explore below some TCM herbs used to address osteoarthritis, organized by herb category.

  • By Herb Category
  • Herbs that warm the interior and/or expel cold
  • Herbs that dispel wind and dampness
  • Herbs that clear heat and dry dampness

"Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold" recommended for osteoarthritis

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) Bai Zhu Fu Zi Tang | Zhen Wu Tang
Prepared Kusnezoffii Aconite (Zhi Cao Wu) Xiao Huo Luo Dan

"Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness" recommended for osteoarthritis

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Pubescent Angelica Roots (Du Huo) Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang
Prepared Sichuan Aconite (Zhi Chuan Wu) Xiao Huo Luo Dan