What is it?

Arthritis, or other words known as joint inflammation, can cause moderate to severe pain and stiffness in one or multiple joints. This condition often becomes worse with age. Arthritis is the degeneration of cartilage, which is a strong and flexible tissue located between two bones and helps with flexible movements and shock absorption. When the cartilage deteriorates, the space between the two bones becomes smaller and eventually, may lead to a state where the two bones are “rubbing” against each other, causing arthritis pain and stiffness. 

There are three types of joints illustrated below:

  • Left- healthy joint, with thick layers of cartilage (light blue) positioned at the two bone plate ends.
  • Middle- osteoarthritis, this is the most common type of arthritis with degenerated cartilage layer and bones rubbing against each other, causing pain and stiffness.
  • Right- rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammation usually caused by an autoimmune disease, where there is a build-up of fluid around the joint, leading to inflammation and joint damage. 
Retrieved from Mayo Foundation .,of%20one%20or%20more%20joints.

The symptoms can include a list of various characteristics, with the most common two being STIFFNESS and PAIN, others may include:

  • Loss of flexibility
  • Inactivity
  • Swelling
  • Skin discoloration
  • Tenderness or sensitivity to touch around the affected joint
  • The feeling of heat around the affected joint
  • If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may also additionally experience:
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Noticeable swelling and warmth around joint 

Risk factors:

  • Aging – the prevalence increased from 27.4% (more than 70 years old) to 43.7% (more than 80 years old). 
  • Sex- women are more likely to have joint problems
  • obesity- heavier weight = more pressure asserted on the joints
  • genetics
  • repeated stress on the joint = e.g overworking/exercising
Causes and risk factors of osteoarthritis | Download Scientific Diagram

Understanding Acupuncture as a Pain Relief Therapy 

Although there is not a completely cure for arthritis, the main goal is to reduce the symptoms and improve the quality of life. Many individuals seek for alternative therapies to manage the symptoms effectively, and among these alternatives, acupuncture stands out as a centuries-old practice rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, known for its potential to alleviate pain and improve mobility in arthritis patient.

How can Acupuncture Help?

Acupuncture aims to conduct energy (Qi), regulate and balance body metabolism by inserting needles into different acupoints to promote pain relief and other symptoms of arthritis. 

Different kinds of acupuncture treatments for knee osteoarthritis: a  multicentre, randomized controlled trial | Trials | Full Text
Note: this is an example of acupoints that can be used. In clinics, there are both local and distal points the practitioner may use depending on the patient’s pain level and body balance.

Pain Relief

Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective and powerful pain relief tool to alleviate multiple pain. One of the pain management strategies is that the insertion of acupuncture needles can trigger the release of endorphins, which is the body’s natural painkiller, to reduce pain levels. Research has shown that 8/10 studies with acupuncture had a significant reduction in pain when patients with osteoarthritis were treated. 

Reduced Inflammation

Chinese medicine diagnosis rheumatoid arthritis as “Bi” syndrome, which is caused by wind, coldness, dampness or heat pathogen invaded into the body meridians, in terms affecting the joints, causing stiffness and pain. Studies up to 2022 looked at with rheumatoid arthritis patients undergoing acupuncture treatment, showed a significant reduction in pain when compared to patient not treating with acupuncture. In terms of inflammation, the markers that causes inflammation were reduced, meaning that inflammation was reduced too.

The Road to Relief

Similar to other available Western medications, Chinese acupuncture aims to reduce the symptoms of arthritis, such as pain and stiffness, and improve the quality of life after treatment. Additionally, dissimilar to Western medicine, acupuncture also focuses on improving and restoring balance and Qi, and a natural healing process. Research has shown effective pain relief results after treatment with acupuncture and thus acupuncture remains a natural, yet powerful pain relief tool in the quest for arthritis treatments. 

You can read more about arthritis here.

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