When the weather changes to colder winter, it can greatly affect people with arthritis and joint issues. Many people see an increase in pain as the temperatures drop, while stiffness and creaking joints set in. This has long been known by people with low back or knee pain, who can often experience a change of season, or dampness, in their aching bones. Keeping ourselves warm and dry during the winter can be hard for people in cold and wet climates, but there are other ways to keep balanced during this time, even if working or enjoying the outdoors.
Chinese Medicine associates the winter season with wetness. It is a time when rain turns to snowfall and the cold can hardly be escaped in some climates. Chinese Medicine focuses on working with the seasonal energies while balancing any factors that could bring the body out of balance. Acupuncture, herbs, moxa, massage and more are all modalities that can be used to keep the Qi energy of the body flowing to reduce pain and stiffness associated with slowing down in the colder months.
Associating Arthritis with Changes in Temperature
While it was once anecdotal evidence that people experience arthritis in cold weather, studies have shown that there is a direct connection between low pressure, low temperature and joint pain. While this study was conducted in animals, it does document the potentiality of weather to affect joints in humans as well.
Another study examined people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia joint pain over one year. The study used a control group of people who did not have arthritis to demonstrate effects. The study allowed all participants to live in a warm climate while keeping detailed recordings of their pain levels. Researchers then associated these recordings to the daily weather conditions and found that all patients with arthritis experienced greater pain levels when the weather was colder, while people in the control group did not experience any change in pain levels due to weather conditions. These studies demonstrate scientifically what has been long known–that cold winter weather can increase pain levels in those with arthritis, swelling and stiffness.
Chinese Medicine Solutions for Arthritis
So what can we do to alleviate this pain if we are one of the many people who suffer from arthritis and pain? Chinese Medicine can offer some solutions to these ailments by creating harmony and balance in the body, moving the Qi and blood and keeping joints lubricated. In TCM, arthritis is called “Bi” and is a form of obstruction. This means there is a blockage in the joints and that Qi and blood cannot move freely within these areas, leading to pain. This can manifest as aching, stabbing pain or even sensations of heat. Acupuncture, herbs, moxa, massage and other modalities are often successful in alleviating these sensations and supporting the body in moving more freely.
To help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis pain with Chinese Herbs, there are a few formulas to choose from depending on the diagnosis and etiology of pain. For arthritis caused by wind, some herbs for use include Ma Huang and Fang Feng. These herbs help support healthy joints and mobility. For those with cold and achy joints with stabbing pain, herbs like Ma Huang are used to warm and dispel cold. In damp patterns, the pain is sore with swelling and the limbs might feel heavy. For this condition, herbs like Yi Yi Ren and Cang Zhu can alleviate the heaviness and reduce swelling. Many people have also found success with using Turmeric (Jiang Huang) which invigorates the blood, dispels stasis and eases pain.
Herbal Medicine for Healing Joint Pain in Cold Weather
At Plum Dragon, we make a formula called Abundant Justice Training Wine, which is based on an ancient Shaolin herbal text formula. The formula has been used for centuries to condition the body, create longevity, support circulation, strengthen the liver and kidneys and strengthen the bone and connective tissues.
Another popular pre-made formula called Flexibili-Tea has been used in martial arts for centuries. It relieves muscle tension and helps muscles and ligaments that have become overstretched through activity.
We are also proud to sell a proprietary Dit Da Jow topical arthritis formula. This formula comes in tincture liniment format to relieve arthritis pain and support healthy bones and joints for all people. Dit Da Jow is a great formula to incorporate for arthritis in colder weather, as it moves the Qi and blood and warms the joints to relieve stiffness.
Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Warming the Body
Acupuncture and moxibustion are two other ways Chinese Medicine treats the symptoms of arthritis–including joint stiffness and pain. Moxabustion is the traditional practice of burning dried mugwort over specific areas of the body to increase blood flow and the movement of Qi. This practice can bring warmth to the area and can reduce swelling and stiffness to allow for a greater range of motion. Chinese Medicine has been addressing the pain associated with arthritic conditions for thousands of years and is a medicine that has provided much improvement to those who need it, especially during colder seasons.
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