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What is Osteoarthritis: All You Need to Know About the Disease

What is osteoarthritis? Learn all about this disease, its symptoms and remedies so you can move easily without restrictions.

Woman helping another an elderly woman to get up after a fall in the park.

What is osteoarthritis? It’s the most common joint disease in the world. It occurs from the prolonged use of different joints, which eventually causes cartilage loss.

Excessive use and friction between two bone surfaces will permanently damage the articular cartilage, a smooth, white tissue that covers the ends of bones to form joints. Consequently, this will lead to the destruction of bones and their supporting ligaments and inflame the joint lining. 

Here are the risk factors and signs of osteoarthritis and how to cope with this debilitating disease.

Understanding Osteoarthritis by Learning its Risk Factors

Woman with obesity sitting on a running track holding her right knee in pain.
People with obesity have a high risk of developing osteoarthritis.

The elderly are most likely to develop osteoarthritis due to extensive wear and tear. People with obesity or bone disorders can also suffer from an additional burden on the bones and joints.

In addition, people who regularly perform strenuous workout routines may also experience joint damage or repetitive joint compression, triggering osteoarthritis. Women and people with genetic susceptibility also have a higher risk of developing the disease. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes an invasion of external cold or heat, wind or dampness causes osteoarthritis. Sprains, overuse of joints, physical traumas and a family history of osteoarthritis can contribute to the obstruction of smooth flowing blood and qi (vital energy) in our body’s meridians. 

For instance, a spleen deficiency (damp painful obstruction syndrome) can give rise to joint swelling that aggravates dampness and pain in a specific area of the body. A yang (active energy) deficiency (cold painful obstruction syndrome) is characterised by unilateral, severe pain in the joint that worsens from coldness.

Meanwhile, a blood deficiency (wind painful obstruction syndrome) makes pain move from joint to joint. On the other hand, a yin (passive energy) deficiency (heat painful obstruction syndrome) can result in warm, painful joints with redness and swelling.

Recognising the Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

X-ray image of osteoarthritis in the knee.
An X-ray is used to determine if a person has osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis affects all joints. However, it’s particularly common in the hip, spine, knees and shoulders. Pain is the most prevalent symptom of osteoarthritis, as it transpires from the use of your joints. The disease can also cause stiffness, especially after waking up or a period of inactivity.

When the bones rub together, it can cause a complete loss of mobility and a piercing sensation in the moving joints. Mobility loss may also happen due to a tightening of the ligaments. Swelling may also arise because of spurs in the joints or bones located near the joints.

Treatments and Preventive Measures for Osteoarthritis

In Western medicine, a healthcare provider will diagnose osteoarthritis by assessing your medical history and performing an X-ray on affected joints. The imaging test can indicate cartilage loss, and bone wear and spurs. At times, a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is required to better assess a person’s disease severity.

Physical therapy

3D visuals of the Ququan and Yanlingquan acupoints.
Chronic osteoarthritis symptoms can be relieved by stimulating the Ququan and Yanglingquan acupoints.

Regular exercise is important for strengthening the ligaments that surround the joints. This is because it can help lessen the pain and stiffness related to osteoarthritis. Gentle exercises like yoga, swimming, brisk walking and tai chi are helpful. 

The stimulation of specific acupoints can also address the catalysts of chronic forms of the disease (chronic painful obstruction syndromes).

  • Sanyinjiao (SP6) and Zusanli (ST36) can correct blood and qi deficiencies 
  • Pishu (BL20) and Zhongwan (CV12) help to resolve phlegm 
  • Xuehai (SP10) and Quchi (LI11) for alleviating blood stasis 
  • Ququan (LR8) and Yanlingquan (GB34) can remedy deficiencies of the Liver and Kidneys

Medication and health supplements

A plaster, medication, and hot or cold compresses are frequently used for pain relief. A healthcare provider may also prescribe oral analgesics for your pain. However, you’ll need to pay attention to the potential side effects linked to its long-term use. You may also use ginger, green tea, and fish oil to suppress osteoarthritis inflammation. 

The use of a patented TCM medication known as Shu Feng Huo Luo Pian is effective in easing the symptoms of 83%–90% of people with osteoarthritis, whilst inducing only minor side effects. Consuming a herbal supplement formulated with collagen hydrolysate can also be beneficial for improving joint health and slowing down the progression of osteoarthritis.

A healthy, balanced diet

A nutritious diet rich in vitamins A and C and Omega-3 fatty acids is essential. Oily fish, fruits and vegetables can provide a sufficient absorption of these nutrients. Getting an adequate intake of vitamin D through sun exposure is also crucial in reducing the pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Understanding what osteoarthritis is can go a long way in helping you live a mobile, pain-free life. Use this guide to prevent an onset of or manage the symptoms of the disease effectively. Ensure you speak to a TCM practitioner beforehand if you wish to use herbal ingredients or tonics to cope with the disease. 

This is an adaptation of an article, “What is osteoarthritis?”, which first appeared on Health123 website.


  1. US National Library of Medicine. 2017. How Do You Treat Osteoarthritis in Your Practice?  [Accessed 29 November 2021] 


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