One of the commonest reasons for people to try acupuncture is for pain relief in arthritis.
Arthritis is usually divided into two groups; degenerative and inflammatory. Degenerative or 'wear and tear' damage is caused by osteoarthritis. The inflammatory group includes rheumatoid arthritis, and arthritis associated with other diseases such as psoriasis and colitis.
Acupuncture may be very helpful in reducing joint pain and stiffness associated with arthritis, and the improvement is usually long lasting. In many cases it will be possible to avoid what might seem to be an inevitable progression to surgery, and we are always pleased when we can achieve this. The study on the right found that a quarter of patients with severe knee arthritis were able to take themselves off the waiting list for a knee replacement, because they improved so much with a short course of acupuncture.
Acupuncture seems to be particularly effective with osteoarthritis of the knee. Rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory arthritis, such as psoriasis, frequently respond well to Acupuncture with marked reductions in pain, stiffness and swelling.
Research has shown that acupuncture has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, which may be why it can be so helpful in various types of inflammatory arthritis. One study (not related to arthritis) has shown that acupuncture could be more effective than steroids. Of course, stimulating the body's own healing responses and anti-inflammatory pathways like this does not cause any of the side effects of using steroids.
A small study in Denmark of 100 patients with severe arthritis of the knee who were all waiting for knee replacement were given a course of acupuncture. 80% of them found that their pain was better, and 25% were so much better that they did not need the operation.
(Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica (1992) 36:519-25).
The Inflammatory Reflex and the Role of Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies. Oke SL.Tracey KJ Ann. NY Ac Sci (2009) 1172, 172-80