Acupuncture for the Relief of Arthritis Pain
By Laura L. Eckland
Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical procedures in the world, with its origins dating back to China more than 2,000 years ago. When properly administered, it can have an amazing ability to naturally relieve arthritic conditions: pain and inflammation of the joints.
Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the belief that an essential like force call “qi”(pronounced “chee”) flows through the body along channels called meridians. These Meridians are like rivers that irrigate the body and nourish the tissues. Any obstructions (called “bi”) along these channels is like a dam that blocks vital energy flow, creating pain and diseases. Acupuncture is a very effective form of pain control in that it can relieve soreness in three ways. First, it causes the body to produce chemicals called endorphins, which inhibits the perception of pain naturally. Second, it blocks the transmission of pain signals to the brain through the nervous system. Thirdly, it deactivates trigger points. Trigger points are tender and extremely reactivate areas that develop within muscles. The result of acupuncture is a widespread relaxation of both mind and body.
Arthritis is a pervasive disease that causes pain and inflammation in joints and can be widely spread throughout the body. Arthritis isn’t just one disease, it is a complex disorder that comprises more than 100 distinct conditions and can affect people at any stage of life. The common thread among arthritis symptom is persistent joint pain and inflammation of the joints. While arthritis pain and inflammation cannot be avoided as the body ages, with the aid of acupuncture and Oriental medicine the pain can be managed to a greater degree and improve functioning.
Acupuncture treatment points for arthritis are located all over the body, not just directly over the affected area. During the treatment, tiny needles are placed along the patient’s legs, arms, shoulders and even toes. These needles are so tiny that multiple acupuncture needles can fit inside a human hair. The needles stay in the area for a set amount of time and then removed. Most people relax and even fall asleep during the treatment. The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary according to the intensity of the pain, and its severity and pervasiveness with the patient.
The relief of arthritis pain through acupuncture has been studied many times. Results indicate that the use of acupuncture and Oriental medicine can be an effective form of pain management. Many studies throughout the world have been given on a range of arthritis sufferers- from patients awaiting full-hip replacements, to knee surgery patients, as well as people suffering from the effects of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. In most studies, the patients are split into groups- one group participating in acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in conjunction with a self-help course for managing their condition and conventional therapy; the other group receiving only the conventional therapy and self-help course information. The studies indicated that between 25-40 per cent who received acupuncture in conjunction with the conventional and self-therapy had a decrease in pain and a noted improvement in the function of arthritic joints.
The latest study by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is one of the largest and longest clinical trials to show such conclusive effects and patients who underwent acupuncture treatment reported a 44% average reduction in pain and a 40% improvement in mobility.
Combining acupuncture with standard meds therapy can relieve pain and improve movement in people with arthritis of the knee, according to a new study conducted by Dr Brian Berman, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, and was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).
In the trial, Dr Berman and his colleagues studied 570 patients with an average age of 65 who had osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments for 26 weeks, in addition to standard care such as anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers:
Acupuncture – inserting thin needles into certain body points to stimulate improved health.
Sham acupuncture – patients feel some sensation from a needle but it isn’t actually inserted.
A self-help course for managing pain.
Throughout the 26 week trial, participants continued to receive their normal standard medical care, including anti-inflammatory meds and pain relievers.
By the eighth week, acupuncture patients showed a significant increase in function compared with both the sham treatment and self-help groups. By week 14, they were also experiencing a significant decrease in pain. By the end of the trial overall pain was reduced by about 40% and function improved by almost 40% in the volunteers receiving acupuncture.
The popularity of acupuncture as a treatment for arthritis continues to grow because more and more people have found significant relief from Oriental Medicine without the negative effects that sometimes accompany conventional Western medicine. The best results for a drastic reduction in pain and inflammation caused by arthritis is seen by combining conventional medicine with Oriental medicine- acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic massage. Herbal medicine strengthens the body and enhances the immune system. Massage increases circulation in affected areas and helps to deactivate painful trigger points.
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