Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Can Acupuncture Help?

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common joint conditions that affect millions of people worldwide. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that is caused by the gradual loss of joint cartilage, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the lining of the joint capsule. Both conditions can result in pain, stiffness, and mobility reduction, and can significantly impact a person's quality of life.

Traditionally, painkillers have been used to manage joint pain associated with these conditions, but long-term use of painkillers can lead to many side effects, some of which are serious. Therefore, patients have been seeking alternative treatments for pain management, and acupuncture is one of the therapies that has gained attention in recent years.

Acupuncture is a complementary therapy that originated in ancient China. Acupuncture is believed to work by stimulating the body's natural healing processes, such as releasing endogenous opioids and reducing stress hormone release.

Several studies have investigated the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating joint pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A randomized, controlled clinical trial involving 3633 patients showed that acupuncture was associated with significant reduction in pain intensity and improvements in symptoms and quality of life compared to those in a control group.

Similarly, a systematic review of 12 studies on the use of acupuncture to treat rheumatoid arthritis showed that six studies reported a significant reduction in pain in the acupuncture group, and four studies reported a reduction in morning stiffness.

The use of complementary and alternative medicine therapies, including acupuncture, has gained acceptance among medical professionals. A survey of rheumatologists in the United States found that 54% of them recommended acupuncture as a beneficial therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. The same survey also found that 70% of rheumatologists believed bodywork, another complementary therapy, was beneficial..

In conclusion, joint conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can significantly impact a person's quality of life. While painkillers have traditionally been used to manage pain, acupuncture is gaining acceptance as an alternative therapy. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in reducing joint pain and improving quality of life for people with these conditions.

Wang C et al Arthritis Rheum (2008) 59:1249-56
Manek NJ et al BMC Complement Altern Med (2010) 28:10-5

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