Mrs. F. L. Perth:

Recently I have been suffering from joint inflammation. I'm worried it could be the start of arthritis. Can you suggest anything to help?

Dr. Xu:

Strictly speaking 'joint inflammation' is in itself only a symptom, which manifests as a result of several different diseases.


The most common cause of this symptom is, however, arthritis. This includes rheumatic and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatic arthritis occurs due to an A-type streptococcus bacterial infection always following an upper respiratory tract infection. Usually the large joints (shoulders, elbows, hips and knees) of the body are affected with symptoms in different areas at different times, including swelling, pain, redness and feelings of heat. Rheumatoid arthritis is considered to be an auto-immune disease. It is normally the small joints (hands, feet, wrists and spine) that are affected. Symptoms appear in bouts, usually affecting the joints symmetrically and causing stiffness, reduction of movement and deformation.


Osteo-arthritis also causes swollen and painful joints and often results from damage to joints following either trauma, or as a degenerative process commonly seen in the elderly.


The causes of joint inflammation then, as you can see, are many. A doctor would need to take into account the history, specific symptoms and examination outcomes to correctly diagnose the disease. Chinese medicine sees different causes of 'arthritis' to correspond to different categories of their 'blockage syndrome'. They believe that the problem is caused by a blockage in the channels commonly caused by cold, heat, wind and damp. Treatment consists of expelling wind, dispersing cold, getting rid of heat, and eliminating damp, and in some cases it may be necessary to strengthen the kidney and liver in order to strengthen bones and soft tissues around joints. Acupuncture is usually the first choice in TCM to treat 'blockage syndrome', and is generally highly effective.


I would advise you to seek further advice from a health professional in order to obtain a clear diagnosis. You could come to the Meridian Clinic for a free consultation to discuss the problem, before deciding how to treat it.