Treating Arthritis Pain with Acupuncture
More than 58 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, many of those people still suffer from pain, despite taking over-the-counter or prescription medication. If you're one of them, you're probably tired of trying treatments and home remedies that don't do much to ease your symptoms. Acupuncture, a therapy that's been used to treat pain for centuries, may finally help you keep your pain under control.
Pain, stiffness, inflammation, swelling, and other arthritis symptoms happen when the bones in your joints become damaged. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, happens when the protective cartilage at the ends of the bones erodes due to years of wear and tear. Once the cartilage is gone, the bones don't slide together smoothly when you move the joint, which causes pain.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system attacks the tissues in your joints. Eventually, the inflammation damages the bones in the joints and may even change the way the joint looks. Post-traumatic arthritis may cause pain after an injury damages a joint, while psoriatic arthritis most often occurs in people who have the skin condition psoriasis.
Relieving Your Arthritis Symptoms with Acupuncture
Managing arthritis pain can be a challenge no matter what type of arthritis you have. Medication may not help enough or may cause side effects. If you'd like a more natural way to control your pain, acupuncture is the perfect option. Although treatments can't repair or restore damaged cartilage and bones, acupuncture can:
- Decrease Pain. Acupuncture treatments prompt your body to release endorphins, hormones that relieve pain naturally, in addition to improving your mood. Treatments also trigger the production of serotonin, a type of hormone that reduces pain, helps you feel calm and is essential for good nerve function. A meta-analysis in the Journal of Pain found that acupuncture has a clinically relevant effect on pain and is a reasonable option for people who experience chronic pain.
- Block Pain Signals. Your joints won't hurt if pain signals can't travel from your nerves to your brain. Acupuncture treatments target the nerve fibers that carry the signals, offering an effective way to stop pain. Electroacupuncture is particularly helpful in blocking pain, according to an article in Anesthesiology. The treatments reduce pain caused by inflammation and activate a variety of chemicals that stop or dull pain, including serotonin and natural opioids. Electroacupuncture involves attaching a gentle electrical current to acupuncture needles to enhance the effects of the treatment.
- Reduce Inflammation and Stiffness. In addition to triggering pain, inflammation also causes swelling that stiffens arthritic joints. Inflammation can be related to an imbalance of Qi, a life force that travels through your body in a series of meridians. A Qi blockage could increase pain, swelling, and inflammation around a joint. During acupuncture treatments, your acupuncturist inserts hair-thin needles at specific points in the meridian to eliminate blockages and decrease inflammation.
- Improve Mobility. Once joint inflammation decreases, you'll probably discover that it's much easier to move easily. Walking, bending, and other activities that used to cause pain may be much more comfortable, thanks to regular acupuncture sessions. In a research study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, acupuncture treatments improved mobility and quality of life for osteoarthritis patients who participated. Acupuncture is just as helpful for people who have rheumatoid arthritis. In a study published in Clinical Rheumatology, patients who received 14 acupuncture sessions reported improvements in mobility, pain, quality of life and swelling.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Statistics, 10/12/21
Journal of Pain: Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis, 11/30/2017
Anesthesiology: Mechanisms of Acupuncture-Electroacupuncture on Persistent Pain, 2/2014
BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies: Pain Management with Acupuncture in Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, 8/23/2014
Springer: Clinical Rheumatology: Acupuncture for Symptom Management of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Pilot Study, 1/10/2008
Arthritis Foundation: Acupuncture for Arthritis