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Understanding Gout with TCM

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

acute gout attack
Acute Gout Attack

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 they could not 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


-postmenopausal women

-post-transplant patients

-high alcohol intake

-high body mass index

-diet high in meat and seafood

-strenuous exercise

-drugs (eg. diuretics)

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.

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

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


Article by Poh Yu Min (Joy)

Graduated from NTU Double Degree in Biomedical Sciences and TCM, Joy has gained experiences in both hospital and private practices. She went on to further her studies in Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and graduated with a Masters in TCM (Basic Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine). Joy is currently the Consultant TCM Physician at NobleCare TCM Wellness Pte Ltd and her area of focus lies in Women’s Health and Fertility care, Slimming and Obesity management, Sub-Health management and Children Wellness Development.


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