Do you ever experience knee pain when climbing stairs or standing up after sitting for a long time? If you wake up with joint stiffness and experience increased pain in the evening, along with popping sounds when you move your knee, you may have osteoarthritis.
Jonathan Liu, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner with more than 26 years of professional medical experience discussed in the program "Health 1+1" how to relieve joint pain with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dietary therapy, and acupuncture, and shared tips for daily exercise to maintain joint health.
Liu explains that joint stiffness and soreness may occur in the early stages of osteoarthritis and can develop into a symptom called "morning stiffness," wherein increased stiffness of the knee makes getting out of bed and initial walking difficult after a night's sleep—as if the joint is locked up. It takes about 30 minutes of slow movements to unlock the knee before you can walk again.
Factors Affecting OsteoarthritisWhy does osteoarthritis occur? Liu listed the following influencing factors:
How does TCM Treat Osteoarthritis?A study published in the Medicine (Baltimore) journal in 2019 tracked data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database and found that patients with knee osteoarthritis who underwent TCM treatment had a lower risk of total knee arthroplasty.
The study analyzed 34,231 patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis between 1997 and 2003. It divided them into two groups: one group received TCM treatment (including Chinese herbs and acupuncture), and the other received non-TCM treatment. The results showed that 7.3 percent of patients in the TCM group underwent total knee arthroplasty, while 8.2 percent of patients in the non-traditional Chinese medicine group underwent surgery.
In addition, the average hospitalization days for knee osteoarthritis patients in the TCM group was 30.5 days, compared to 43.5 days in the non-traditional Chinese medicine group. These findings provide strong evidence for the effectiveness of TCM in treating joint pain.
So, which acupoints can relieve knee osteoarthritis pain?
Liu suggests selecting knee acupoints, such as the Knee Eyes (Ex-LE5), Yang Mound Spring (GB 34), Yin Mound Spring (SP 9), Sea of Blood (SP 10), and Beam Hill (ST 34), along with acupoints that regulate the liver and kidneys, such as the Liver Shu (BL 18), Kidney Shu (BL 23), and Great Ravine (KI 3). He says that acupuncture on these acupoints can quickly relieve pain and treat acute flare-ups of knee osteoarthritis.
For herbal treatment, Liu said that classical TCM formulas in clinical treatments, such as Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang and Sanbi soup, can help strengthen the kidneys and benefit the joints.
In terms of dietary therapy, Liu recommends two medicinal foods:
Liu explains that notoginseng root and salvia root can promote blood circulation, resolve stasis, and relieve pain, while Diel's millettia can invigorate blood, regulate menstruation, and promote circulation. This medicinal congee is suitable for individuals who are young and have experienced joint injuries, but do not have other chronic illnesses.
- 15g (0.52 ounces) eucommia bark
- 15g (0.52 ounces) doubleteeth pubescent angelica root
- 15g (0.52 ounces) epimedium
- 5g (0.17 ounces) mulberry mistletoes
- 12g (0.42 ounces) gentiana macrophylla root
- 10g (0.35 ounces) Chinese angelica root
- 10g (0.35 ounces) Szehuan lovage root
- Rinse the herbs, then decoct them in a clay pot with water
- Bring it to a boil over high heat, add 15g (0.52 ounces) of cooking wine
- Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes
Eucommia bark and mulberry mistletoe tea can strengthen the liver, kidneys, tendons, and bones, dispel cold and dampness, promote blood circulation, and alleviate pain. It suits older individuals with accompanying lower backache and leg pain symptoms.
How to Exercise With Osteoarthritis?Exercise is another key aspect of maintaining joint health. Liu emphasizes that individuals with osteoarthritis should avoid vigorous and high-intensity exercises such as hiking or stair climbing, as they can strain the joints and damage the knee joints. Recommended exercises include swimming, cycling, and brisk walking. He suggests regular low to moderate-intensity exercise sessions, two to three times per week, for eight to 11 weeks, which can help alleviate symptoms.
Liu advises adhering to four principles for maintaining joint health: