Arthritis

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23 03, 2011

Chronic Back Pain

I had been experiencing back pain that limited my ability to walk more than 100 yards. I had dealt with this problem for 7 years. I had tried everything else and nothing worked so I thought I would try acupuncture.

When I first came in the pain was from the back of my knees to my upper back. The pain has been reduced to only my lower back now. It has improved to the point that I am now walking a full kilometer! I am also walking straighter. I am very impressed with my results so far. I hope with continued treatments to completely resolve the pain.

-LD. Kelowna, BC

3 01, 2011

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage in the joints wears down over time. The smooth surface of the cartilage becomes rough, causing irritation. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, there may be no cushion left between the bones and the joint may be left with bone rubbing on bone, causing damage to the ends of the bones and the joints to become painful. The disorder can affect any joint in your body, but most commonly affects joints in your hands, hips, knees, neck, and lower back.

Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain (during or after movement), joint tenderness when palpated, joint stiffness (especially upon awakening or after a period of inactivity), loss of flexibility in the joint, a grating sensation in the joint, and bone spurs (extra bone that may form around the affected joint and feel like hard lumps).

It isn't clear what causes osteoarthritis in most cases. Researchers suspect that a combination of factors may play a role in the condition, including the aging process, joint injury or stress, heredity, muscle weakness, and obesity.

There is no known cure for osteoarthritis, and those suffering from osteoarthritis must look for treatments to relieve pain and manage symptoms. Western medical treatment for osteoarthritis includes pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), cortisone shots, and in more severe cases surgery to replace the joint, to fuse the bones in the affected joint, or to realign the affected bones. Physiotherapy, occupational therapists, and braces or shoe inserts may also be recommended, to reduce stress on the joint.

Acupuncture is a useful option to help manage osteoarthritis and help prevent further progression of this condition. Acupuncture sees osteoarthritis as a “bi syndrome”, meaning that it is caused by a blockage that prevents circulation of blood and qi-energy to the joint, leading to pain and stiffness. Over time, the syndrome progresses and the joint deteriorates because of the lack of proper nourishment. Acupuncture focuses on removing the obstruction to the joint and increasing circulation so that the can joint receive proper nourishment. In this way, the symptoms of pain, inflammation, and stiffness can be relieved, and the joint can become stronger and healthier.

This is one of the strengths of acupuncture, especially in the treatment of chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis- acupuncture focuses not only on relieving the symptoms but also on strengthening the body and supporting healing, to address the cause of the problem. In this way, acupuncture can help a person with osteoarthritis not only live symptom-free, but also help them to manage the condition in a healthy way and prevent or slow the progression of the condition.

With osteoarthritis, we should remember that this is a problem that will not go away and a proactive approach is necessary. Having osteoarthritis does not necessarily mean that a person must be resigned to pain and suffering- steps can be taken to minimize or prevent symptoms. The key to living with a condition such as this is to take steps towards healthy management through exercise, lifestyle changes, and therapies which relieve symptoms and help manage the condition. Acupuncture is certainly worth considering as part of this routine.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

3 01, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining of the joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. This condition is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause symptoms of joint pain, swelling and tenderness, as well as red and puffy hands, firm bumps of tissue under the skin on the arms (rheumatoid nodules), and morning stiffness that may last throughout the day. It can also affect the whole body with fevers, fatigue, and weight loss.

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect the smaller joints first, such as the wrists, hands, ankles and feet, but as the disease progresses, the shoulders, elbows, knees, hips, jaw and neck can also become involved. Symptoms may vary in severity and may come and go. Flare-ups of disease activity alternate with periods of relative remission, during which the swelling, pain, difficulty sleeping and weakness lessen or disappear.

Doctors don’t know what causes rheumatoid arthritis, though it may have a genetic factor that is triggered by environmental factors such as a bacterial or viral infection. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, and treatment involves managing symptoms to prevent flare-ups and further progression of the disease. Western medical treatment may involve medications to reduce joint inflammation, relieve pain and prevent or slow joint damage; physiotherapy to teach better movements to protect the joints; and in severe cases, surgery.

In Chinese medicine, rheumatoid arthritis is considered a “bi syndrome”. “Bi” means obstruction or blockage, and bi syndromes are characterized by an obstruction of qi-energy and blood by wind, cold, dampness, or heat. This causes symptoms of aching, pain, heaviness, numbness, stiffness, redness, and swelling. Bi syndromes usually arise because of an underlying weakness or imbalance in the body that makes us vulnerable to injury or disease.

Bi syndromes that lead to rheumatoid arthritis typically arises from an imbalance of the kidneys, because of their role in the functioning of the bones and marrow, and the spleen, because problems with the spleen can lead to internal dampness in the body, as with joint swelling during a flare-up. The liver is also often involved with rheumatoid arthritis, because liver dysfunction can lead to blockages of qi-energy and shortage of blood, and the liver is also closely tied into the health of the tendons and ligaments.

However, rheumatic arthritis may have different causes depending on the person, and determining the organs involved is done by looking at the specific symptoms for each person. In this way, treatment is tailored to the individual’s symptoms and constitution, to better target the causes and relieve the symptoms.

Acupuncture has a lot to offer those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It offers a healthy way to manage the symptoms of the condition, helping to reduce pain and inflammation and prevent flare-ups from occurring. Acupuncture improves the body’s healthy functioning, including the immune system. It is also very effective for the relief of pain and inflammation- in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, relieving joint pain and stiffness and helping the joints to function more healthily.

For those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, acupuncture offers a safe and healthy option to help manage the condition, prevent further progression, and enjoy life symptom-free.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

16 12, 2010

Upper Back Pain

The upper back is a section of 12 vertebrae, where the rib cage connects to the spine. Upper back pain can be a common problem for a few reasons, a lot of which have to do with our lifestyle. Because we spend a lot of time sitting, we can put extra strain on the upper back as well as create postural problems. This, combined with lack of exercise which weakens the muscles in the upper back, can lead to upper back pain. Also, many of us carry tension in the shoulders, neck, and upper back, leading to further pain. The spine is a connected unit, so problems in the neck or lower back can lead to pain in the upper back as well.

The two most common causes of upper back pain are muscular pain and joint disorders. Muscular pain can develop easily in the large upper back muscles, either due to lack of strength, or injury from overuse through sports, work, or repetitive use. Joint dysfunctions can also lead to upper back pain. Because the vertebrae in the upper back are connected both to each other and to the ribs, there is more possibility for problems. Problems can arise where the ribs connect to the vertebrae, such as with a rib fracture or a rib that shifts out of place.

Less common causes of upper back pain include Sheurmann’s disease (adolescent kyphosis) and ankylosing spondylitis. With kyphosis, there is a disturbance in the growth of the thoracic vertebrae in adolescence, leading to misshapen, wedge-shaped vertebrae that cause the spine to be curved forward. Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammation of the spine that results in a progressive ossification or fusing of the spine. Scoliosis, a condition where the spine curves to the side, can also cause upper back pain.

In the treatment of upper back pain, exercise and postural correction are very important. Acupuncture can also help in the healing process, by helping to relieve pain, inflammation, and stiffness and strengthen the area. By looking at what is causing the pain, we can determine how to correct the problem. Is it due to trauma, whether through an injury or over time through poor posture or repetitive stress? Is it due to our external environment such as too much exposure to cold, heat, damp, or wind? Or is it due to an underlying internal imbalance that is weakening the musculo-skeletal tissues?

In understanding what’s at the root of the problem, we can tailor acupuncture treatment in order to resolve it. While working very well for dealing with the pain and inflammation of upper back pain, acupuncture can also help to strengthen the upper back and to correct internal imbalances that may be contributing to weakness or pain or hampering proper healing. Acupuncture reconnects the interrupted energy flow and corrects imbalances so that the body can better go about its healing, making acupuncture an excellent form of treatment for problems of the upper back.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

7 10, 2010

Cervical Spondylosis / Neck Pain

Cervical spondylosis is a neck condition due to age-related wear and tear to the neck vertebrae. There can be soreness, distention, radiating pain or heaviness of the neck, shoulder, arm or head, and even numbness of the fingers. It is usually seen in patients over the age of forty. The cause is commonly due to degeneration of the discs and cervical vertebra which stimulates or oppresses the spinal cord or surrounding nerves in the neck region.

The tender tissues of spinal cord and blood vessels are mostly protected by the bone of the spinal column. As long as we are healthy, everything is fine, but when we get older these bones can start to degenerate and bony protrusions can threaten the soft tissues. Spondylosis means that the actual body of the vertebra starts to wear out and the disc in between becomes flatter and dryer. This can lead to compression of the nerve or closing of the blood vessels.

Symptoms of cervical spondylosis are pain and stiffness in the neck, tingling and numbness in the arms, hands, legs or feet, limited range of motion, dizziness and headache. The pain can be so severe that we can’t think clearly and it can keep us awake at night. The condition can also affect coordination, reflexes and walking.

Exercises, gentle manipulations, traction, massage and warmth applications can be helpful to this condition. Surgery is a last-case option, because of the delicacy of the surrounding tissues.

Acupuncture can be an effective treatment option for this condition also. In Chinese medicine (TCM) we say the cause of this condition is due to kidney deficiency, and qi-energy and blood stagnation. The kidney are said to control the bones and have an influence particularly on the spine. As the kidneys weaken with age, the bones get weak. In some people, the bones get weaker faster and this is a direct cause of a kidney deficiency.

Acupuncture works by stimulating qi-energy and blood circulation in the area of pain and discomfort. We do this by stimulating the meridian pathway associated with the pain, both locally and distally. Of course, it is important to also treat the root cause of this condition, the kidneys, in order to strengthen the neck and spine and prevent the condition from progressing further.

One of the reasons for the pain experienced with cervical spondylosis can be a high level of tension in the surrounding muscles. This is a defensive reaction by the body to protect the neck. But this tension can also maintain the pain. In this case, we must also release the tension gently – not too fast – and acupuncture can help here.

Acupuncture is a very helpful alternative in treating cervical spondylosis and is very effective in reducing the pain. It mobilizes the body’s own reserves and helps to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. In addition, acupuncture can actually improve the body's healthy functioning, so that the neck is stronger and functioning more healthily and is less prone to pain and further problems. Like many pain conditions, both chronic and acute, acupuncture is an excellent option in the treatment and management of this condition.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

17 12, 2008

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a common complaint that we see often at our clinic. It is most commonly attributed to chronic ligament strain, spinal degeneration or osteoarthritis, or a prolapsed lumbar disc, problems that can be aggravated by a modern lifestyle that may involve a lot of sitting, or heavy strain from physical work or exercise.

Treatment often can include pain medication, chiropractic to realign the vertebrae, massage therapy to relax the muscles, and physiotherapy to correct posture and strengthen the muscles. Surgery may also be considered in severe cases.

Acupuncture can thankfully give very positive results to lower back pain sufferers, in part because Chinese medicine brings quite a different approach to the treatment of lower back pain, and one that is very effective. Back pain in Chinese medicine can be due to a number of factors that either make the back more susceptible to pain or lead to the pain itself, the most common being a weakness of the kidneys, causing a lack of nourishment of the lower back and spine.

The kidneys have a strong influence on the strength and nourishment of the tissue and bones of the lower back area so we always look at the strength of the kidneys when treating back pain, and what may be causing a kidney weakness. It is common for back pain to have a number of causes which create different kinds of pain. The type of pain that is experienced often tells the acupuncturist the underlying cause of the pain and helps point towards the proper diagnosis for treatment.

Invasion of cold and/or damp in the low back area can be a factor. It is usually due to the lower back being exposed during cold and damp weather, which allows the cold and dampness to invade and block the flow of energy and blood circulation.  This type of low back pain usually produces pain that is worse in the morning, better with exercise, better with heat, and worse when weather is cold and damp. 

Back pain due to stagnation of qi-energy and blood is usually caused by an acute sprain or, in chronic conditions, repeated sprain and underlying kidney weakness. Excessive physical work and over-lifting can often lead to this type of pain. Back pain due to qi-energy and blood stagnation is characterized by pain that is severe and stabbing, which gets worse with rest and better with light exercise. The area will be tender to the touch and there will be stiffness of the back muscles and inability to flex, extend or turn the waist.

Because the kidneys have an important function in the creation of energy, general overwork can also lead to chronic pain due to the constant drain on the kidneys’ energy, leading to an overall kidney weakness. Chronic back pain due to kidney weakness is usually dull and comes in bouts. It is better with rest and worse when a person is tired. This type of weakness creates a further vulnerability for an invasion of cold and damp or sprains. 

These are just a few examples of how Chinese Medicine diagnoses lower back pain. Acupuncture is then used to remove blockage in the lower back area which cause pain and weakness, and to stimulate and strengthen weak and depleted kidneys to aid their function of nourishing the tissues of the lower back. Treatment targets many internal factors, the goal being not only to alleviate the pain, but also to effectively resolve chronic conditions and strengthen the body to prevent future pain from arising.

Lower back pain is a common ailment that I see in my practice, and it generally responds very positively to acupuncture, whether it is a recent problem or a chronic problem. A person will usually first notice a reduction in the pain within a few acupuncture treatments, followed by an overall improvement of health, strength, and mobility in the lower back. With additional treatments, many cases of lower back pain can be resolved, allowing a person to resume their former lifestyle free of pain and negative symptoms.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.