acupuncture for arthritisSufferers of arthritis know the pain can affect their entire life.  In addition to chronic pain, there may be related loss of sleep, depression, anxiety, or stress. Pain relievers may not always be effective or may have undesirable side effects. If severe, physicians may suggest knee replacement or other surgery. Frequently, acupuncture is not suggested, and few sufferers are aware that acupuncture may be beneficial in relieving the pain and related symptoms.

Studies have shown acupuncture to be quite effective in the treatment of pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. The more common form, osteoarthritis, often results from past injury or repetitive stress to one or more joints. Osteoarthritis usually responds well to acupuncture.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune, inflammatory and more severe form of arthritis. The joints become red, swollen and painful. After time, they may even become deformed (as in this x-ray of a hand). While RA is more difficult to treat, acupuncture can often help alleviate pain and inflammation.

Since each person is unique, acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine use a holistic approach to treat specific symptoms and imbalances of each individual.

Techniques which may be employed to achieve optimal effectiveness for those with arthritis include:

Acupuncture- thin, sterile needles are used on areas near the painful joint(s) as well as other areas on the body. The needles signal the body to release its own natural endorphins and other pain killers. In addition, circulation to the joint is improved.

Electroacupuncture- incorporates an instrument powered by a 9V battery. Tiny clips are attached to the acupuncture needles. It may be felt as a tingling or tapping at the area around the needle. This technique is especially effective in reducing pain associated with arthritis.
Moxibustion- a special herb, artemesia, when burned above the skin around the affected joint, releases a penetrating form of heat, which is beneficial in warming and relieving pain in cold, achy joints.

Scalp Acupuncture- a specialized form of acupuncture in which special, tiny needles are inserted into the shallow area of the exterior scalp. This technique, which is accompanied by movement of the affected joint, often results in quick relief of pain. The scalp needles, unlike the traditional acupuncture needles used in this clinic, may be left in place for up to 72 hours for continued pain relief.
Chinese Herbs
Chinese Herbs- Chinese herbs are a very important aspect of treatment.  These herbs help move painful obstructions associated with arthritis, thereby, increasing the circulation to the joints. Additional herbal formulas may be prescribed to help bring the body into a more balanced state.

Dietary suggestions- a balanced, varied diet is recommended to keep joints healthy. Certain foods tend to aggravate arthritis. Food with saturated fats, such as non-lean meats, dairy products, and eggs may increase inflammation. Some individuals become worse after ingesting foods from the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Highly sugared foods can increase inflammation. Nitrites and other additives and preservatives found in processed foods can worsen inflammation in some individuals. Other individuals may be affected by caffeine or alcohol. It may be helpful to keep a food log and note which foods were ingested prior to a flare-up. Certain foods such as ginger, fresh pineapple, cherries, fish, turmeric, and fish oils have been shown to help reduce pain and inflammation.

Exercise is strongly encouraged. Weight loss may be necessary to reduce stress on the joints. When done properly, a moderate amount of exercise can help increase circulation and flexibility of the joints and muscles. Tai chi, qi gong, yoga, and other types of low-impact exercises are beneficial to people with arthritis.

Vitamins and supplements may be recommended for optimal health. Fish oil and omega-3 supplements have been shown to reduce inflammation.
Healthy Kanji

Frequently Asked Questions

Will my pain and swelling be relieved right away?

Some individuals will feel some relief right away. Others may feel relief within a couple days after the first treatment. More commonly, there will be some relief for up to three days after the first treatment and more, longer-lasting pain relief with each treatment thereafter. Those with the more severe rheumatoid arthritis may require several treatments before they feel any relief.

How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments will depend on each individual. Often a minimum of ten treatments is recommended. Rheumatoid arthritis typically will require more treatments than osteoarthritis. Treatments are usually given once or twice weekly at first, and then may be extended to maintain pain relief.

Will I have to continue taking medication for my arthritis?

While some individuals may find they no longer need pain relievers and/or anti-inflammatory medications, others may need to continue taking some medication. It is always recommended you consult your physician before making any changes to your prescriptions.

If arthritis is a concern of yours, alternative medicine at Desert Sands may benefit you. Working as a team, we can form a treatment plan that best meets your health needs. To begin your return to a healthier lifestyle, you may contact me at (520) 780-1230.

Jill Darban, L.Ac., Dipl.OM, MT, SH
Desert Sands Acupuncture- Tucson, AZ