Arthritis is one of the most pervasive diseases in the United States and is the leading cause of disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every three Americans (an estimated seventy million people) is affected. For most people, arthritis pain and inflammation cannot be avoided as the body ages. In fact, most people over the age of fifty show some signs of arthritis as joints degenerate over time. Fortunately, arthritis can often be managed with acupuncture.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is not just one disease; it is a complex disorder that comprises more than one hundred distinct symptoms and can affect people at any stage of life. Two of the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While these two forms of arthritis have very different causes, risk factors and effects on the body, they share a common symptom—persistent joint pain.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in the United States. OA begins with the breakdown of joint cartilage, resulting in pain and stiffness. Commonly affected joints include the fingers, knees, hips, and spine. Other joints affected less frequently include the wrists, elbows, shoulders, and ankles. When OA is found in a less frequently affected joint, there is usually a history of injury or unusual stress to that joint. Repetitive injury and physical trauma may contribute to the development of OA. If you have a strenuous job that requires repetitive bending, kneeling, or squatting, for example, you may be at high risk for OA of the knee.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks synovial joints. Inflammation of the joint lining, called the synovium, causes pain, stiffness, swelling, warmth, and redness. The affected joint may also lose its shape, resulting in loss of normal movement.
Studies show that acupuncture can stimulate the production of hormones that reduce pain and inflammation.
In a German study, 3,500 people with osteoarthritis of the hip and/or knee received 15 sessions of acupuncture combined with their usual medical care. The results showed that the patients that had acupuncture had less pain and stiffness, improved function and better quality of life than their counterparts who had routine care alone. The improvements occurred immediately after completing a three-month course of acupuncture and lasted for at least another three months, indicating osteoarthritis is among conditions treated with acupuncture.
Another study, published in the journal Pain, looked at the effects of acupuncture among 40 adults with osteoarthritis of the knee. Among the patients in the study, those who had a daily acupuncture session for 10 consecutive days reported greater improvement in their pain compared with patients who received a “sham” version of the therapy.Resources: Pain Online, December 15, 2009. Arthritis & Rheumatism, November 2006; vol 54: pp 3485-349