Joint pain according to Chinese Medicine

aching bones and joints, arthralgia, heat and pain in the joints redirect here

Joint pain can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like joint pain here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here joint pain is often associated with swollen joints, stiff neck and numbness of the muscles in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/cold-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause joint pain.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of joint pain we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat joint pain.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause joint pain

In Chinese Medicine joint pain is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Prepared Sichuan Aconite (Zhi Chuan Wu) is the king ingredient for Wu Tou Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/cold-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles

Cold invading the Channels joints and muscles

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

In addition to joint pain, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/cold-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles include swollen joints, stiff neck and numbness of the muscles.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/cold-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles is often treated with Wu Tou Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Sichuan Aconite - Zhi Chuan Wu - as a key herb). Wu Tou Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm the meridians and disperse cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the channels and remove obstruaction".

Read more about Cold invading the Channels joints and muscles here

Prepared Sichuan Aconite (Zhi Chuan Wu) is the king ingredient for Wu Tou Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/painful-obstruction-syndrome

Painful Obstruction Syndrome

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to joint pain, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/painful-obstruction-syndrome include knee pain, swollen joints and stiff neck.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/painful-obstruction-syndrome is often treated with Wu Tou Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Sichuan Aconite - Zhi Chuan Wu - as a key herb). Wu Tou Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm the meridians and disperse cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the channels and remove obstruaction".

Read more about Painful Obstruction Syndrome here

Dong Quai (Dang Gui) is the king ingredient for Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/dampness-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles

Dampness invading the Channels joints and muscles

Pulse type(s): Slow (Chi), Soggy (Ru)

In addition to joint pain, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/dampness-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles include swollen joints.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/dampness-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles is often treated with Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang, a herbal formula made of 16 herbs (including Dong Quai - Dang Gui - as a key herb). Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Expels Wind Damp from the Channels".

Read more about Dampness invading the Channels joints and muscles here

Water Plantain (Ze Xie) is the king ingredient for Wei Ling Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-cold

Damp-Cold

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slippery (Hua), Slow (Chi), Soggy (Ru)

In addition to joint pain, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-cold include fever, back pain and abdominal pain.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-cold is often treated with Wei Ling Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Water Plantain - Ze Xie - as a key herb). Wei Ling Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Promotes urination".

Read more about Damp-Cold here

Stephania Roots (Fang Ji) is the king ingredient for Xuan Bi Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/heat-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles

Heat invading the Channels joints and muscles

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

In addition to joint pain, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/heat-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles include fever, swollen joints and aversion to wind.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/heat-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles is often treated with Xuan Bi Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Stephania Roots - Fang Ji - as a key herb). Xuan Bi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dispel wind-damp", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears and resolves Damp-Heat".

Read more about Heat invading the Channels joints and muscles here

Five herbal formulas that might help with joint pain

Wu Tou Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Warms the channels and remove obstruaction. Disperse Cold and Dampness. Warms the joints. Relieve joints pain.

Why might Wu Tou Tang help with joint pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/cold-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles' of which joint pain is a symptom.

Read more about Wu Tou Tang here

Da Fang Feng Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Key actions: Expel Wind Damp. Relieve pain. Tonify the Liver and the Kidneys. Tonify the Blood and Qi.

Why might Da Fang Feng Tang help with joint pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/painful-obstruction-syndrome' of which joint pain is a symptom.

Read more about Da Fang Feng Tang here

Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang

Source date: 1587 AD

Number of ingredients: 16 herbs

Key actions: Expels Wind Damp from the Channels. Invigorates Blood. Unblocks the channels.

Why might Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang help with joint pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/dampness-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles' of which joint pain is a symptom.

Read more about Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang here

Wei Ling Tang

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Promotes urination. Warms the Yang. Strengthens the Spleen. Drains Dampness. Promotes the movement of Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wei Ling Tang help with joint pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-cold' of which joints pain is a symptom.

Read more about Wei Ling Tang here

Xuan Bi Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears and resolves Damp-Heat. Unblocks the meridians. Disbands painful obstruction.

Why might Xuan Bi Tang help with joint pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/heat-invading-the-channels-joints-and-muscles' of which joints pain is a symptom.

Read more about Xuan Bi Tang here

Acupuncture points used for joint pain

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat joint pain

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with joint pain?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat joint pain as a symptom, like Wu Tou Tang or Bu Gan Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with joint pain?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat joint pain as a symptom, like Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang or Da Fang Feng Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with joint pain?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat joint pain as a symptom, like Wei Ling Tang or Da Fang Feng Tang for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here

Why might Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with joint pain?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat joint pain as a symptom, like Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang or Da Fang Feng Tang for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here

Why might Notopterygium Root (Qiang Huo) help with joint pain?

Because Notopterygium Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat joint pain as a symptom, like Da Fang Feng Tang or Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Notopterygium Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Bladder and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold and Dampness. Relieves Wind-Damp-Cold painful obstruction. Directs Qi to the Greater Yang (Tai Yang) channel and the Governing Vessel.

Read more about Notopterygium Roots here