According to the latest CDC statistics, 1 in every 4 adults has arthritis. A quarter of those suffer from severe joint pain.
Arthritis is not curable. The cost and quantity of medication patients have to take to live every day pain-free can be high.
Continuous pain relief and suppression of inflammation is often the only option presented to manage the disease. However, taking medications regularly can have a negative impact on the liver and gut.
Acupuncture for arthritis presents as a gentler and much safer solution.
What is Acupuncture for Arthritis?
Acupuncture is only one of the several modalities in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) based on the concept of qi. Qi or life-energy flows through channels, or meridians, which are mapped out throughout the body. These meridians are mapped very similarly to the nervous system network, an area of overlap which is constantly being studied.
Acupuncture uses thin needles and inserts them into the skin for a set time to control meridian points. In turn, the acupuncture needle can regulate the flow of energy, similar to traffic lights regulating the flow of traffic.
In the case of arthritis, TCM believes that a particular meridian, where the affected area is interconnected with, is blocked. The lack of qi flow in one area and an overflow in another, caused a certain function to be impaired. The objective of acupuncture treatment for arthritis is to keep the meridians open so that qi can circulate smoothly. Acupuncture has also been shown to locally decrease inflammation in a painful area, and help overtaxed and irritated nerves heal.
First, let’s get to know arthritis a little better.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the inflammation of single or multiple joints and is usually accompanied by pain. It can affect any joint, including the fingers, wrists, shoulders, elbows, ankles, knees, hips, neck, spine and big toes.
Arthritis can affect people of all ages, genders, and races. However, it is more common in adults and women.
Main Types of Arthritis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA is an autoimmune disease. This means the immune system attacks its tissues. As a result, RA destroys the tissues in the joints and other parts of the body.
If it continues to progress, RA may cause deformities and impair the function of other body organs over time.
- Osteoarthritis (OA)
OA is the most common type of arthritis. OA involves the erosion of joints and cartilages. It is more associated with the elder population or people with previous injuries.
The wear and tear of the cushion in between joints cause the bones to have more friction against each other. This makes body movement difficult and often painful.
Symptoms of Arthritis
- stiff joints in the morning
- joint pain, tenderness, redness, and warmth
- deformed joint and the presence of bumps around it
- decreased range of motion
- grinding pain
Western Medicine Approach to Arthritis
- Medications, usually NSAIDs
- Physical Therapy
How Does Acupuncture Work in Reducing Joint Inflammation and Pain?
Acupuncture affects the proteins (cytokines) that regulate the immune system’s response to diseases and infection. To maintain health, there should be a balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory proteins.
Acupuncture promotes these proteins to have more anti-inflammatory effects, especially at the site of pain. As a result, it decreases the swelling and localized inflammation due to arthritis.
Acupuncture enhances the release of happy hormones (endorphins). These hormones are the body’s natural pain relievers. Acupuncture helps the body relax, reduces stress and promotes an overall sense of well-being.
Research shows acupuncture to be effective in addressing chronic pain brought about by arthritis.
4 Factors That Can Enhance the Effectiveness of Acupuncture in Arthritis
1. Chinese herbs
This aspect of Eastern Medicine uses different parts of selected plants. The herbs are made into a topical or internal supplement and are prescribed to a patient depending on the root cause of their condition. However, it is important to know whether a patient is taking any prescription drug to administer Chinese herbs safely. Herbs can often be used with prescription medications, but your Licensed Acupuncturist will adjust accordingly based on any other medications or supplements you are taking.
The tandem between acupuncture and herbal medicine can be ideal as both are therapeutic techniques under TCM. However, only practitioners with training in herbs can prescribe herbs as much as only Licensed Acupuncturists can perform acupuncture.
2. Clean diet
The types of food and fluid intake greatly influence arthritis. Some food substances exhibit anti-inflammatory effects on the body.
A clean diet is one that is healthy, nutritious and well-balanced. Also, it avoids foods and drinks that aggravate arthritis and further damage the joints.
3. Active lifestyle
It is highly significant for arthritis patients to stay active for more manageable pain and improved flexibility. Exercise stimulates endorphins and improves circulation, which is critical for pain relief and improved healing. Exercise also helps improve quality of bone and muscle mass.
Regular walking or swimming are low impact ways to increase strength and ease stiffness in the joints.
4. Physical therapy
When an active lifestyle is not possible due to extreme arthritis pain or other issues, physical therapy can come in handy. Physical therapists aid arthritis patients in improving the function of their mobility to live a better quality of life.
Acupuncture, when combined with other treatments such as massage or physical therapy, can increase its efficacy for arthritis. Studies suggest that such combination provides even more considerable improvements for arthritis patients.
There is still no cure for some of the degenerative changes at the root of arthritis. While Western medicine offers conservative treatments to arthritis, it still does not guarantee a patient’s permanent freedom from the symptoms.
When it comes to pain, different patients may respond differently. A simple pain for one may be agonizing for another, as pain affects people very differently.
Furthermore, taking pain medications can feel necessary for patients looking for an option for relief; but chronic use of medication can negatively affect the body, especially the liver.
Acupuncture is a modality with high efficacy as an integrative solution to reduce joint inflammation and relieve pain naturally.