Two of the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis usually affects the hips, knees, spine and hands, causing them to swell and stiffen. This form of arthritis is caused when the cartilage between the bones of the joints becomes worn, so that the bones rub against each other when the joints are flexed, causing intense pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis also involves swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints. This form of arthritis is characterized by feverish attacks during which the tissue, tendons and ligaments of the joints become inflamed and the skin swells and becomes very tender.

Women are more prone to both forms of arthritis than men. Rheumatoid arthritis may be hereditary, and it may also stem from some form of auto-immune responce or be brought on by injury or stress on the joints.

In Chinese medicine the treatment of arthritis is divided into two major types. Herbal medicine is effective in reducing the swelling in acute arthritis and acupuncture is usually good for helping to relieve the pain. Both kinds of arthritis are caused by “wind damp” but one is the result of wind cold and the other of wind heat.

In cold arthritis the joints are painful, particularly in the winter. A Chinese Medicine practitioner will use warming herbs to clear the wind and dampness and to release the energy which has become congealed. These herbs include cinnamon twigs, angelica root, aconite root and wild ginger.

When heat is the cause of arthritis, there is swelling and heat in the joints and a Chinese Medicine practitioner will prescribe corktree bark and large-leaved gentian. When patients seek treatment in the early stages of the condition, Chinese herbal medicines can be extremely effective.

In more long-term cases, Chinese Medicine can also help to contain the arthritis, but if the joints are badly affected, their function cannot be restored. Acupuncture can often give pain relief in severe cases, and is used in many Western hospitals.

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