Imagine being afflicted by a pain so sharp that it jolts you awake in the middle of the night. Often, many suffers a gout attack in the middle of the night and are unable to get up to walk. The affected area is so sensitive that the pain can be aggravated by even the lightest tickling of a feather. The feeling is so unbearable that the sufferer is unable to put pressure on the limb, so walking or even standing takes a lot of effort. Sounds familiar? This is a typical representation of a person suffering from gout.
What is gout?
Gout is a metabolic disorder which results in an excess of uric acid in the bloodstream and the deposit of its salts (urates) in joint and tissues.
Clinical features of gout:
Hyperuricemia (physiologic definition: [urate] ≥6.8mg/dL (360umol/L): urate solubility)
Sudden onset of severe pain, swelling, warmth, and redness of a joint
Gout usually affects one joint at a time, but if left untreated it can affect many joints. Joint pain that used to resolve in a week to 10 days could become a milder, but constant pain. Eventually, untreated gout can cause other problems.
Tophi – painless but disfiguring lumps of crystals formed from uric acid may develop under the skin around joints. The crystals can also form kidney stones.
Gout is associated with other serious health risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.
Who gets gout?
Middle age person
High alcohol intake
High body mass index
Diet high in meat and seafood
Drugs (eg. diuretics)
How does TCM understand gout?
From a TCM point of view, the clinical features of gout, such as frequent attacks of swelling, redness, heat and pain in the joints, and improper movement of limbs, place gout in the category of “bi-syndrome”. Attacks on the meridians in the superficial areas of the body such as the feet and hands by wind, cold and dampness lead to stagnation of vital energy and blood circulation.
How does TCM treat gout?
Treatment of bi-syndrome in TCM involves the use of a combination of therapies, such as herbal remedies and acupuncture.
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment can help alleviate the pain and prevent acute attacks of gout by:
Reducing the production of uric acid and enables its excretion.
Helping restore various metabolic pathways that are disrupted in individuals with gout
Reducing inflammation and promoting the releasing of vascular and immunomodulatory
Increasing local microcirculation
Impacting the areas of pain, which is receptive to pain sensitivity, so promotes relaxation and deactivating the analytical brain, so it reduces worry and anxiety
How do I prevent gout?
It is difficult to cure gout and the therapeutic aim is to focus on symptom relief and to control the progress of the disorder. Here is a list of measures to prevent attacks of gout:
Dietary control: eat a balanced diet and avoid eating animal organs, bean products, red meat, fermented and salty foods
Abstain from drinking alcohol
Maintain moderate body weight
Try to avoid the risk factors of gout, such as stress, over-tiredness, accidents or strenuous exercise that may damage joints
Drink plenty of water to encourage the excretion of toxins
Physician Poh Yu Min 傅瑜敏, is a TCM practitioner at