Millions of Americans report that they cannot perform simple everyday tasks such as tying a tie or opening a jar, because of the debilitating pain of arthritis. Twenty percent of all Americans say that their arthritis symptoms are so severe that it has affected their job performance and their general ability to enjoy life. Despite what one may think, arthritis is not just an “old persons” disease. In fact, almost two-thirds of those with some form of arthritis are younger than age 65. There are two main forms of arthritis: rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. In recent studies, acupuncture has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of both.
A study conducted in Germany looked at over 300,000 people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants in the study received 15 sessions of acupuncture combined with their usual medical care. During the study, those that had the treatments reported less pain and stiffness, improved function, and better quality of life, than those who had received routine medical care alone. Interestingly enough, those that had the acupuncture treatments, also reported less severity of their symptoms for three months after the study, when they were not receiving acupuncture at all.
Another study was conducted in China on victims of rheumatoid arthritis. Here, participants were treated with traditional acupuncture as well as another technique called electroacupuncture, which uses minute bursts of electricity to stimulate the acupressure points. Participants receiving both the traditional and the electroacupuncture reported significant decreases in the severity of their symptoms.
As when it is used to treat any condition, according to TCM, acupuncture relieves the symptoms associated with arthritis by improving blood and qi flow to the affected areas.
Acupuncture decreases the pain associated with arthritis by increasing the release of neurotransmitters that block pain. The meridians or acu-points that are located along nerve pathways are stimulated by the needles and then send signals to the brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that are very similar in nature to morphine that are released in the body during times of pain or stress. The painless acupressure needles “fool” the nerves into thinking they are in pain, and the brain releases the chemicals in response.
Today, acupuncture is so widely accepted as a treatment for arthritis that it is even covered by some health insurance companies. So if one is suffering from any form of arthritis, always consult a doctor first, and if acupuncture is recommended, be sure to check and see if the treatment is covered by insurance.