Acupuncture and Arthritis

Arthritis is a complex disorder that comprises several distinct conditions, all of them sharing one common symptom: chronic joint pain. For years, a significant aspect of modern medical science has been dedicated to finding the cure for arthritis, with varied results. Some forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis – a degenerative condition affecting the cartilage leading to inflammation of the joints – are irreversible, hence, much of the treatment has been focused more on pain reduction than on an actual cure.

However, a new study has made a connection between acupuncture and arthritis. The study said that the combination of acupuncture and arthritis can significantly reduce pain and improve function in those suffering osteoarthritis of the knee.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical procedure wherein hair-thin needles are inserted into points along “energy channels” – meridians, where the life force of the human body flows through. This is thought to help unblock the clogged energy channels and thus, help ease pain as a result of such blockage.

As part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – a form of alternative medicine based on the belief that an essential life force, qi, flows through the body along channels called meridians – acupuncture is among the oldest form of medical procedure in the world. The first form of acupuncture was started in China more than 2,000 years ago but is now widely practiced in Asia and Europe.  With the recent discovery about the connection between acupuncture and arthritis, specifically on its role as a pain reliever, the procedure is increasingly becoming popular in the United States as well.

As opposed to what you may believe, getting stuck with needles for a few minutes is not as torturous as it sounds. In fact, most people who believe in the healing connection between acupuncture and arthritis, say that there is only a slight stinging sensation when the needles prick the skin, but that is all. There is no pain after that. The needles used in acupuncture are very thin, smooth, and solid, unlike hypodermic needles which are hollow with cutting edges. The length of each session may vary, depending on the kind of disorder you wish to be treated. When it comes to acupuncture and arthritis, treatment may require two sessions a week and may last for several months.

Study on Acupuncture and Arthritis

The study on acupuncture and arthritis was conducted by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Considered as one of the largest and longest clinical trials to show such conclusive effects of acupuncture and arthritis on patients, the study reported a 44 percent average reduction in pain and a 40 percent improvement in mobility.

For purposes of the study, the researchers enrolled 570 patients who are aged from 50 above, with arthritis of the knee, and who had been suffering significant pain in the same the month before the study was conducted. The patients were then randomly assigned three different treatments, and it was found that those who specifically underwent acupuncture and arthritis treatment had a 40 percent decrease in pain and a nearly 40 percent improvement in function.

“We have demonstrated that traditional Chinese acupuncture is an effective complement to conventional arthritis treatment and can be successfully employed as part of a multi-disciplinary approach to treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis,” says Brian Berman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.