Acupuncture relieves arthritis pain

A 2,000 year-old Chinese treatment which uses needles placed at specific points on the body can lead to both a decrease in arthritis pain and an increase in function, according to a U.S. study.

“For the first time, a clinical trial with sufficient rigor, size, and duration has shown that acupuncture reduces the pain and functional impairment of osteoarthritis of the knee,” said Dr. Stephen Straus, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which helped fund the study.

These results also indicate that acupuncture can serve as an effective addition to a standard regimen of care and improve quality of life for knee osteoarthritis sufferers, added Straus.

Researchers studied 570 patients over the age of 50 with osteoarthritis of the knee. All had experienced significant pain, but had not previously tried acupuncture. They had not had knee surgery in the past six months and had not used steroids or similar injections.

Study participants received either regular acupuncture treatments, sham acupuncture, or a self-help course for managing pain. They also continued to receive standard medical care, including anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers.

By the end of the second month, patients who received acupuncture treatments had a significant increase in function. By the 14th week the same patients experienced a significant reduction of pain, compared to the other two groups, according to researchers.

Over the course of the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the volunteers given true acupuncture had 40 percent less pain and a nearly 40 percent improvement in function.

“What happens, based on the Chinese theory, is there’s a blockage of energy flow,” Dr. Peter Yea of the Canadian Association of Acupuncture told CTV. “The idea is to use a needle on certain points, on the meridians, depending on where the blockage is.”

Almost anyone with arthritis pain will feel some relief after the first treatment, but acupuncture works well over the course of several treatments, says Yea.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese art based on the theory that Qi energy flows along meridians in the body, and can be stimulated by inserting fine needles at specific points. Doctors say the method works because the needles release endorphins in the body.

Acupuncture has also been used to treat a range of health problems including asthma, addiction, depression, anxiety, blood pressure disorder and problems with the digestive system.

Acupuncture is considered generally safe, but as with any therapy – conventional or alternative – experts recommend observing some precautions*:

• Choose a therapist who is licensed and/or a graduate of a respected school of acupuncture, and who is willing to work with your doctor.

• Receive a diagnosis from a medical doctor before undergoing acupuncture, to make sure you don’t have a condition requiring prompt medical attention.

• Don’t stop your medications without consulting your doctor. Acupuncture works with, not instead of, conventional medicine.

• Tell the acupuncturist about all health conditions, including pregnancy; and list all medications, including herbs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that could cause you to bleed.

• Be sure the acupuncturist uses sterilized or disposable needles.

• Don’t take muscle relaxants, tranquilizers or painkillers directly before acupuncture, as acupuncture may intensify the effects of these drugs.

• Tell the practitioner immediately if you experience pain or bleeding. Acupuncture shouldn’t hurt after the initial sting of the needle’s insertion and you should not bleed more than a few drops.

• Don’t automatically take herbs offered by traditional Chinese practitioners. They could interact with prescription drugs.

• Keep notes about your response to the treatment, and tell your doctor and acupuncturist about any changes.

• Record your progress. If you have no response at all after four to six sessions, this therapy may not work for you. Or you may want to try another therapist, because, as in any therapy, skill levels vary.

*Source: Arthritis Today

Acupuncture – real or fake – reduces back pain
Physiotherapy: what to expect
10 tips to staying physically active