Rheumatoid Arthritis and TCM Treatment

by Dr. Dongfeng Zhou, AP, DAOM

 If you have pains, swelling, or swiftness in your joint, you may have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). To be clear, RA is a long-term disorder that affects the joints. More and more RA patients present with damaged parts of the body, including skins, kidneys, bone marrow, salivary glands,  nerve tissue, eyes, lungs, and hearts. More often than not, the symptoms become worse, and this stage is known as flare-ups or flares. It is often difficult to manage flares, but early treatment can help minimize its adverse effects.

People suffering from this ailment often notice bone erosion and joint deformity. Stats show that about 40% of RA patients have related signs and symptoms around their joints. However, these signs and symptoms vary from one person to another. In some cases, it comes and goes. Contrary to public opinions, RA is not a psychosomatic disease in a strict sense.


As an autoimmune disease, RA is a huge threat to us. Ideally, your immune system helps protect your body from infections. However, the story changes the moment you show signs of RA. This is particularly because the ailment attacks the healthy tissues in your body, such as your lungs, eyes, skins, nerves, and other parts identified above. To date, medical experts are at sixes and sevens about what triggers it. Despite that, most of the time, the thin layers covering your joints become sore and inflamed. Experts have also linked RA to emotional causes or mood disorders like depression and anxiety. However, those factors only aggravate the ailment because they intensify pain perception.

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Signs and Symptoms

  • Tiredness, fever, and loss of appetite
  • Tender, warm and swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness associated with early-morning and arduous activities
  • Weight loss, high temperature, and lack of energy
  • Swelling, warmth, and redness

Risk Factors

Its risk factors are discussed below.

  • Gender: Studies indicate that RA occurs more in women than their male counterparts. In one study by Norwegian researcher Tore K. Kvien, the findings revealed that middle-aged women are 4-5 times more likely to have RA than the male folks.
  • Age: While anyone can have the ailment, it gets worse when you hit 50 years and above. To be precise, available stats show that the majority of RA patients are between 60 and 70.
  • Smoking: If you are a habitual smoker, your odds of developing RA are high. It is even worse if you have the genetic disposition of developing the ailment. More importantly, its severity gets worse if you are a habitual smoker.
  • Family history: Basically, people whose family members have RA are likely to have it too. This is because RA is always common with people who have the HLA (human leukocyte antigen) class II genotypes. The genes are also capable of exacerbating it.
  • Early-life exposures: According to studies, early exposure to smoke due to smoking parents and people from low-income backgrounds increase the possibilities of developing it. Therefore, you need to watch it if you fall into those categories.
  • Obesity: Well, obesity is another factor that deserves a worthy mention. That is simply because being overweight automatically makes you an at-risk person. Indeed, several reports have indicated that the more overweight someone is, the higher the risk of having it.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on Rheumatoid Arthritis

According to TCM practitioners, the root causes of RA are connected to:

  • External factors: These include wind, cold, dampness.
  • Internal factors: Deficiency of Qi, blood, kidney, liver, etc.
  • Static blood and phlegm

When the adverse effects of those factors play, the outcome is that they block the flow of Qi. The obstruction of Qi and blood, known as the Bi condition, leads to a number of things, including stiffness, swelling, soreness, redness, and heat around the joints.

Thankfully, TCM specialists have been treating the ailment over the centuries. Interestingly enough, modern researchers have shown that active ingredients of Chinese medicine are capable of reducing the adverse effect of RA on affected parts of the body. Consequently, those ingredients shield the bones from deformity.

Delving deeper into history, the first drug treatise in the earliest Chinese medical classics, Shennong Bencao Jing, was Aconitum Carmichaelii. The drug was also used to treat patients who had difficulties in walking, knee pains, cold, and dampness. Another essential RA drug whose roots stem from TCM was GuiShaoZhiMu Decoction (GSZMD). Specialists often opt for GSZMD because it has fewer adverse effects. The treatment of RA in Chinese medicine follows the principle of syndrome differentiation.

Plus, DangGuiNianTong Decoction (DGNTD) and DuHuoJiSheng Decoction (DHJSD) are essential drugs for treating it. While the former was used to remedy Bi syndrome caused by dampness and heat that culminates in poly-joint swelling, the latter was used for strengthening the physical condition of older people struggling with the ailment.

By and large, all herbal formulas have been used to treat the ailment for over 1900 years ago. In spite of that, they are still in use today. In fact, they are included in the National Insurance Directory of China.


As far as RA is concerned, middle-aged people are considered the at-risk people. So, if you fall into that category, you need to take steps to treat it early enough, else it may lead to serious physical disability. Going back to the TCM theory, it categorizes RA as Bi disorder. The good thing is that the combination of Chinese herbs, acupuncture, and massage has been reported to have significant therapeutic effects on RA. Indeed, the Chinese herbs discussed above have been shown to enhance the life quality of RA patients. So, applying acupuncture and massage relieves the pains, expands the joint motion, and modulates the emotion. Are you an AR patient? If so, you have nothing to worry about. Just feel free to get in touch with our specialists to learn more about how we can help you now…


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