Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Nursing and Midwifery

First Supervisor

Patricia Sherwood


This is the first research study exploring the experience of the ginger compress for people with the diagnosed condition of osteoarthritis (OA). The stimulus for this research came out of both the researcher's Masters research and an interest in alternative healthcare. The World Health Organisation has declared 2000-2010 the Bone and Joint decade, with one of the primary aims advancement in the research and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders of which OA is the most common.

Conventional management of OA is generally focused on the use of either non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or analgesics, which are regularly rejected by people either because of side effects from long-term use or personal preference for alternative treatments. Rheumatologists suggest that the ideal management of OA includes a combination of both conventional and alternative treatments. The ginger compress is an alternative treatment for people with OA symptoms, which has its origins in ancient folk lore, having been used for thousands of years in China. Today, it is a routine treatment for OA in Traditional Chinese Medicine clinics in the Guangzhou province of China and hospitals in Germany specialised in complementary healthcare. In 2006 the researcher visited these clinics and hospitals to gain an understanding of the use of the ginger compress. The ginger compress is a cotton cloth, soaked in a hot ginger infusion, and applied externally on specific parts of the body. In this study it was applied on the kidney region of the back and termed a ginger kidney compress (GKC).

A Husserlian phenomenological approach was used to explore the meaning of the lived experience of the GKC for people with OA. This approach applies a rigorous process of phenomenological reduction, bracketing and reflexivity to enable the essential features of the experience to be exposed. The opportunity for people’s experiences to be reported free of researcher bias is a significant feature of this approach. A clearly defined, systematic methodology was followed, which enabled complex sources of data to be explored and described logically and creatively.

In this study data were obtained through the use of an OA selection questionnaire, daily diaries and drawings, follow-up interview, telephone conversations and emails. Two primary open-ended questions were asked to elicit participants’ experience of the GKC. A significant parameter of the research was the purposive sampling. Ten adults, 6 female and 4 male, over 45 years of age, with symptomatic OA were selected. For all participants, OA was not being satisfactorily managed by existing approaches, it had been present for at least one year, and it was confirmed by X-ray and detailed assessment of symptoms. An arthritis assessment questionnaire confirmed that participants met the criteria for selection. People with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer, other serious conditions and those on corticosteroids were excluded from the study. Ten nurses in complementary primary healthcare clinics in New Zealand and Australia applied the treatment and monitored the participants' condition. The treatment involved daily GKCs for seven consecutive days. Following the treatment, data was collected and analysed, using the software tool NVivo.

Seven themes were identified that revealed the GKC treatment had a significant and positive impact on participants' relationship to the self, others and the world and the impact continued for varying periods after the treatment. All participants experienced encompassing, penetrating warmth in the body, which activated a deeply relaxed state. The mind was totally at peace and calm as a sense of timelessness ensued, which allowed revived memories to be met with renewed understanding. The self experienced an energising of the whole inner being, with thought life becoming alive and awake. A sense of inner bodily freeing progressed to an emotional and physical release. As tensions, eased joint flexibility and subsequent mobility improved. The self experienced a sense of enthusiasm for life that accompanied an interest and inner urge to renew participation in social and other worldly activities. A new world view was gained in which the self felt confidently independent and able to manage life with OA.

This study found a particular personality type is prevalent in people with symptomatic OA. A lack of deep inner warmth, relaxation and vitality are typical experiences for such people. The GKC treatment counteracted this deficiency, with ginger’s unique qualities of heat, balance, stimulation, anti-inflammation and analgesia. This treatment offers hope for people with a condition that has led to progressive physical deterioration and loss of quality of life. It offers understanding in management of OA and a brighter future living with OA.

LCSH Subject Headings

Ginger - Therapeutic use.

Osteoarthritis - Treatment.