If you live with arthritis, you know what a challenge it can be to find relief from joint pain and other symptoms. But there are many things you can do to manage and control your arthritis and live a healthy, active life. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be powerful additions to any treatment plan, without causing harmful side effects.
Arthritis according to Western Medicine
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 21 million Americans. It occurs when the cartilage between the joints breaks down, usually affecting the hips, hands, knees, low back, or neck.
Some factors can increase your risk, including a joint injury, being overweight, aging, and genetics. Putting stress on a joint through repetitive motion can also increase your risk.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is another common type, affecting 2.1 million people in the United States. This chronic condition occurs when the lining of the joints becomes inflamed, and can lead to long-term joint damage and even loss of movement. Women are two to three times more likely to get RA.
RA often starts in the hands or feet, and usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body. Symptoms include:
Warm, swollen or tender joints
Joint stiffness, especially in the morning
Flu-like symptoms such as fever
Muscle pain and weakness
Western treatment generally focuses on relieving pain and preventing further joint damage. Often this is done through the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications, as well as through self-care and physical therapy. In some cases, surgery may even be needed.
Acupuncture offers a safe, natural way to control joint pain and other symptoms and maintain overall health. In fact, a 2004 study showed that patients with OA of the knee experienced a 40 percent decrease in pain and a 40 percent increase in function after receiving a series of acupuncture treatments.
A whole-body approach to relief
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) take a holistic, or whole-body approach to health. According to these theories, Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness. It flows through pathways called meridians, providing nourishment for every cell, tissue, muscle and organ. When there is an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi, physical symptoms may result.
During treatment, fine, sterile needles will be inserted at specific acupoints along the meridians in order to unblock any obstruction and allow Qi to flow freely.
Your practitioner may also recommend herbal remedies, massage, and stretching. Be sure to discuss any new medications with your doctor to avoid any potential interactions.