Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Updated June 1, 2004





Q&A: Joint Pain
By Gabrielle Mathieu, LAc, MSOM

Gabrielle Mathieu is a Licensed Acupuncturist, with a graduate degree in Oriental Medicine.She has an undergraduate degree in medical technology and worked in hospitals as a lab technician for 12 years before coming to Oriental Medicine.She integrates both medicines in her Austin Texas practice.

How would you treat chronic joint pain (CJP)? I have had CJP in my left hip for years and blamed it on bursitis. Within the last couple of years I've not been able to sleep on that side, loss of sleep is definitely not good as I am a researcher in the field of human development: a wife & mother of three young children! I now have pain in the right hip as well. X-rays and MRI's reveal no arthritis or injuries (phew!). The rheumatologist had me try a round of Vioxx - in increasing dosages 12, 25, 50. I am not a fan of conventional treatments.

There is crepitus in both knees, with that feeling of "OMG, it's going to go out" on a loaded stair climb (carrying a sleeping child). Exercise has become practically impossible as even riding my stationary bike causes swelling in the knees. I am active but pay for it most nights with aching & stiffness. I just started water PT but would like to enhance that treatment with an herbal remedy as opposed to drug treatment. Can you help?

Thank you,

Hi Tish,

The question of how we would treat join pain, and what you are asking for, seem to be to different things to me. It sounds like you are looking for a supplement or herb that you can buy at the health food store.

Our education, as Chinese herbalists, includes several years of herbal study, on both the individual components of herbal formulas, and the traditional formulas themselves. A visit to an herbalist consists of a careful history, observation of the tongue, and taking of the pulse. Based on the observable syndrome or combination of syndromes, an herbal formula is recommended. Your letter suggests that the Chinese "Kidney" may be involved to some extent, suggested by problems with the bones and a feeling that your knees are "about to give." However, without actually seeing you in person, it would be difficult for a Chinese herbalist to offer you a recommendation of a Chinese herbal formula.

There are currently supplements on the market that seem promising. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states, "Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural substances found in and around the cells of cartilage. Researchers believe these substances may help in the repair and maintenance of cartilage. In addition, researchers believe that glucosamine inhibits inflammation and stimulates cartilage cell growth, while chondroitin provides cartilage with strength and resilience."

Other substances like boswellia or curcumin also are gaining in popularity. Although these substances will not treat the root cause of your malaise, they seem to have anti-inflammatory properties and help some people. To review information about boswellia you can visit the following link: Boswellia (frankincense) is traditionally used with myrrh in some Chinese formulas, to move stagnated blood.

We suggest you visit someone who has passed the board for herbal studies, as well as for acupuncture, so you can receive the benefits of both. You can also try


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