Acupuncture for Arthritis
Contrary to popular belief, arthritis is not a single disease; it is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that cause joint pain or joint disease. There are actually more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. Common symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion of various joints. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities, and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Eventually, it can lead to permanent joint changes.
The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, is the most common type. It involves the wearing away of the cartilage between bones, leading to bones rubbing directly against each other. This causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory arthritis, is an autoimmune condition that involves the immune system mistakenly attacking joints. It involves uncontrolled inflammation in joints, causing pain, swelling, and heat. Other less common forms of arthritis include psoriatic arthritis, infectious arthritis, and metabolic arthritis.
Acupuncture is a safe, natural alternative
Common treatments for arthritis include pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter pain medication. Also recommended are cold or heat therapy, rest, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercise aimed at strengthening the muscles surrounding the affected joints. Steroid shots are also becoming increasingly common. These therapies are helpful for some people, but for others they do not provide a satisfactory level of relief. This is the main reason that people turn to acupuncture for treatment. Others turn to acupuncture because they prefer natural treatments to pharmaceuticals and their many side effects. Acupuncturists also see many patients who are trying treatment as a last resort to avoid joint replacement surgery. Whatever the reason for turning to acupuncture, many people find the relief they're looking for with acupuncture treatment.
Proven effective in numerous studies
Acupuncture has been found to be extremely effective at treating the pain and inflammation associated with all types of arthritis. Several studies illustrate this.
In one Scandinavian study, 25 percent of arthritis patients who had been scheduled for knee surgery cancelled their operations after a series of acupuncture treatments. Another study at the University of Maryland showed that elderly arthritis patients with knee pain due to arthritis improved significantly when acupuncture was added to their treatment. In this study, patients who received acupuncture had significant pain relief when compared with the control group, and showed improvement in function.
Physiology of why acupuncture works
Physiologically, acupuncture works by shifting the release of biochemicals in the nervous system. Effects of this include a decrease in inflammation both generally and locally, as well as increased circulation in the area being treated. Acupuncture has also been shown to influence the release of naturally occurring pain relievers within the body, such as endogenous opioids and endorphins. All of this results in a decrease in pain and an increase in well being.
Arthritis in Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pain is associated with stagnation of qi, a form of energy that flows through your body in channels called meridians. Conditions such as arthritis are called "painful obstruction syndromes". A painful obstruction syndrome that affects the bones and joints is known as "bi syndrome".
Acupuncturists treat bi syndrome using a two-phase approach, addressing both the presenting symptoms and the deeper systemic root of the symptoms. The root of the symptoms varies for each person, and acupuncturists always develop individualized treatment plans focused on the specific imbalances present in each patient. Diagnosis of specific imbalances involves examination of the affected joints, discussion of the onset and progression of symptoms, as well as discussion of any other symptoms, even if they seem unrelated to the arthritis. From this information, acupuncturists develop a treatment plan that addresses the particular symptoms and systemic imbalances present. This individualized treatment plan is one of the main reasons that acupuncture is so successful in the treatment of arthritis.
In addition to acupuncture treatment, there are a number of lifestyle shifts that can play a role in managing the symptoms of arthritis. These include balancing movement and rest, gentle exercise, and a healthy diet. Heat therapy can also be helpful, but only if your arthritis does not involve hot, swollen joints. Specific dietary changes have also been found to be helpful to support relief of arthritic pain. These include:
Again, your acupuncturist will discuss these lifestyle shifts with you and help you to find the ones that are most effective for you. Acupuncturists always take into account feedback from the patient in making decisions about moving forward with treatment and recommendations. This is an integral part of the individualized treatment aspect of acupuncture, which is a centerpiece of the medicine.
Acupuncture has been proven in numerous studies to be effective in relieving the pain associated with arthritis. To read these studies or learn more about acupuncture and arthritis, take a look at the Resources and Related Links section below. For more information about acupuncture, you can read About Acupuncture. You can also learn more about Eastern Medicine or How Acupuncture Works. To learn more about Wisdom Traditions Acupuncture, read About Us. If you have any questions, feel free to Contact Us. You can also Schedule an Appointment Online.
Resources & Related Links
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Marni Adhikari, M.Ac, L.Ac, Dipl.Ac, is the founder and acupuncturist at Wisdom Traditions Acupuncture of Essex Junction, VT