In order to understand why Chinese Medicine can help heal arthritis, it’s important to first understand the theory of why arthritis happens in the first place. This is a very simplified version for this blog post. I could write about this all day.
Chinese Medicine theory believes that our bodies have a natural ability to expel most of the toxins we encounter. If we eat or breathe in something toxic… no problem! Our body processes it and lets it go. In Chinese Medicine, there is also the theory that negative emotions (anger, sadness, bitterness, fear, resentment, etc.) can be toxic. These also need to be somehow released by the body. (Later in this post, I’ll get into why Gua Sha can be a key component of the healing.)
But what happens if you’re going through a really tough time in your life, emotionally or physically? Your body’s natural ability to get rid of toxins might be unable to cope with the overwhelm of that time. The toxins will remain inside your body, and your body now has to figure out what to do with them. Rather than letting the toxins harm your internal organs, Chinese Medicine believes your body is very smart. It can store the toxins in places that will keep them safe (and keep you alive). These places are…you guessed it… the joints! I always tell people with joint pain how lucky they are that their body is keeping them safe by storing their toxins in those joints instead of letting them endanger their lives!
One of the fascinating things about how the body stores these toxins is that there is a progression. You don’t just wake up with pain in your fingers one day. If you do, it’s probably not arthritis but some repetitive stress issue you’re having. It’s more common that the first joint pains you have are in your knees, low back, and neck. Those areas are associated with the Bladder Meridian, which is the first Meridian that “Diverts” toxins away from the organs to the joints (hence it’s called a “Divergent” Meridian).
Divergent, the Meridians Not the Movie
The Divergent Meridians have nothing to do with the recent hit movie Divergent because they are actually a really normal body mechanism for diverging toxins away from the center, to keep you alive and safe.
After the knees, low back, or neck are affected, over time, the situation could possibly worsen (more toxins need to be stored if your body is still unable to cope). Now those toxins must be stored in different joints because the Bladder Divergent Meridian can no longer handle it. So the next stop on the toxins train ride is the hips and shoulders and the Gall Bladder Divergent Meridian. If the Gall Bladder Meridian eventually becomes overwhelmed, then finally it goes into the hands and feet (Stomach Divergent Meridian), which also is when the swellings start. There are further issues. Next comes deformities, and further down the line more impact on your overall health.
The approach in Chinese Medicine then is to remove the toxins from their storage places, slowly over time by doing Divergent Meridian treatments. Gua Sha, a scraping technique that helps release toxins through the skin, is a critical piece of this healing technique.
You can only do this work for your arthritis if you are in a good place in your life (meaning emotional and physical) and relatively strong. Your body is going to have to do the processing and excreting of the toxins that it couldn’t do when you were once overwhelmed. And it’s not only through urination and defecation…but sometimes through rashes on the skin or even extreme emotions that come up and out (like having really bad PMS for a day or two).
The Road Back
The road back from severe arthritis takes time. Anything that affects the shape of your joints is going to need time to recuperate. The Divergent Meridians can only remove the toxins from the joints. There are other techniques that can be helpful as well. Recently I worked with a woman with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. In the beginning, she could barely get to my office or hold a pen, her hands and knees were so swollen and knotted. She now almost bounds up the stairs and is thinking about returning to her career of working in an office with her hands. Her joints have almost returned to normal, and she has very little pain. Once the toxins were released, we were able to begin doing other Chinese Medicine techniques to return mobility to the joints. I used Gua Sha on her extremely tight muscles that had supported the deformed joints to break up the stuck patterns. I also added Moxabustion to bring fluid to the joints once the inflammation was gone. In addition, acupressure techniques for restoring vitality and qi flow in the body were extremely helpful.
If you’re interested in more information about Divergent Meridian treatment for arthritis, I am writing a case study with specific treatment protocols. Please sign up here to receive future notifications about these writings.