Chinese Medicine for Early and Middle Stages Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease caused by mechanical stress, biological changes and other factors. Pathologically, it is manifested as joint cartilage cracking and destruction. The clinical manifestations include knee pain, difficulties in climbing stairs, restrictions in squatting, and even deformity. It is commonly seen among elderly patients. The disease is usually persistent and very likely to recur, which seriously affects the quality of life for patients, especially the elderly. With the aging of society, the number of patients with knee osteoarthritis continues to increase, bringing a heavy burden to both society and families.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), early and mid-stage knee osteoarthritis belongs to the category of “Bi syndrome”. According to TCM principles, the disease is closely related to the bones, tendons and muscles, because these parts are important components of the knee joint and work together physiologically to perform the movement of the knee joint. Therefore, restoring their functions play a vital role for the recovery of knee osteoarthritis. Moreover, in TCM, it is also believed that "the kidney governs bones, the liver governs tendons, and the spleen governs muscles", so the strength of the kidney, liver, and spleen also can affect the function of the knee joint. In short, TCM prevention and treatment of knee osteoarthritis focus not only on the protection of the bones, tendons, and muscles, but also on the protection of the internal organs, includes the kidney, liver, and spleen. Currently, there are a number of ways to treat and/or prevent early to mid-stage knee osteoarthritis, including internal Chinese medicine, external medicinal ointment, and Gong Fa therapy. Internal Chinese medicine therapy differs depending on the progress and severity of the disease. For example, the treatment of early stage knee osteoarthritis is relieving pain by activating blood circulation, while that of mid-stage knee osteoarthritis mainly focuses on tonifying the liver, kidney, and spleen in addition to the same treatment for early stage knee osteoarthritis. External medicinal ointment can be applied directly to the affected area. Rhymed Discourse for Topical Remedies (Chinese: “Li Yue Pian Wen”) states that "the treatment principle of external treatment is the same as that of internal treatment." Despite sharing the same mechanism, the advantage of external medicinal treatment is that it has an immediate effect. Gong Fa therapy, including Tai-chi, Wuqinxi (five-animal exercises), Ba Duan Jin (eight-section brocade), are also effective for early to mid-stage knee osteoarthritis. Their healths benefits include strengthen muscles, benefiting tendons and bones, and improving one’s mood.