According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one out of every three Americans (an estimated 70 million people) is affected by a form of arthritis. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability. In many cases acupuncture can alleviate arthritic pain.
Pain is the primary complaint of arthritis sufferers, and acupuncture is a very effective form of pain relief and management. It relieves pain in three ways. First, it causes the body to produce chemicals called endorphins, which inhibit the perception of pain. Endorphins are produced naturally by our own body, therefore there are no side effects. Second, acupuncture works through the nervous system by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Third, it deactivates trigger points which are tender spots and extremely reactive areas that develop in the muscles and the fascia sheaths of the body. They are often responsible for chronic pain and are frequently found around arthritic joints.
Several studies have shown that acupuncture can help people with arthritis and related auto-immune diseases.
In one Scandinavian study 25 percent of arthritis patients who had been scheduled for knee surgery cancelled their operations after acupuncture treatments. In the study, researchers compared acupuncture with advice and exercise for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the hip. Thirty-two patients awaiting a total hip replacement were separated into 2 groups. One group received one 10-minute and five 25-minute sessions of acupuncture, and the other group received advice and hip exercises over a 6-week period.
Patients were assessed for pain and functional ability. Patients in the acupuncture group showed significant improvements, while no significant changes were reported in the group that received advice and exercise therapy. The results of this study indicate that acupuncture is more effective than advice and exercise for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the hip.
Another study at the University of Maryland showed that elderly arthritic patients with knee pain due to arthritis improved significantly when acupuncture was added to their treatment.
Even without the studies, the popularity of acupuncture for arthritis continues to grow because more and more people have found significant relief from Acupuncture without the negative side effects.