What Do Studies Say About Acupuncture For Arthritis?Monday, December 28th, 2020
Although acupuncture has been used for thousands of years as an alternative therapy, it has only recently been accepted in Western medicine. Research has shown, although, in a limited fashion, that acupuncture can help relieve symptoms of arthritis. Before looking at the research or choosing this treatment, it is helpful to understand how it is done.
The basics of acupuncture
The foundation of this therapy starts with qi (“chee”), an energy that flows throughout 20 channels (meridians) within the body. Pain and illness are caused when these channels are blocked. By stimulating one or more of 2000+ points along the meridians, the qi is restored and pain is said to disappear.
How the medical industry views acupuncture
Although Western medicine does not accept the idea of qi and meridians, studies have shown some scientific proof and promise that acupuncture works. Despite this, many physicians feel as though this alternative therapy does not compare to normal treatments like injections. Some think that it can provide benefits alongside Western medicine, though. Ultimately, there is still much controversy in the industry.
What the research shows
In one study, patients that received real acupuncture for 26 weeks felt less pain and were able to walk farther in six minutes than those who did not. According to Brian Berman, MD, professor, and director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the needles do cause reactions in the body.
When a needle is inserted during acupuncture, it sends a signal through the body to the brain, resulting in a release of neurotransmitters. Specifically, endorphins and enkephalins (which are known to help relieve pain) are sent throughout the body. Researchers have also found that cortisol, an inflammation-reducing hormone, can be released during acupuncture. Here are some examples of studies that focused on how acupuncture affects different types of arthritis.
Most studies show that acupuncture offers minimal pain relief for osteoarthritis. A Cochrane review from 2018 focused on six studies of acupuncture and hip osteoarthritis. The results showed that there was little to no relief of pain and stiffness. One trial did report that patients experienced a notable decrease in pain and an increase in functionality when acupuncture was used in conjunction with other treatments. Also, anecdotal evidence from actual patients shows a more positive picture.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can benefit some patients with rheumatoid arthritis. One review from Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed this. It focused on 43 studies conducted between 1974 and 2018 and reported that quality of life can be increased with acupuncture. According to the review, this is because of several possible reasons including anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects, as well as better regulation of immune system functionality. The review does note, however, that more research is needed.
A 2014 article from the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine focused on 9 studies of how acupuncture affects fibromyalgia. Some showed that the treatment worked better than medications. But, the studies were not well-organized so the results cannot be decided one way or the other.
Interested in trying acupuncture for your arthritis?
If you would like to try this treatment to help relieve your symptoms, there are some things you should know first. Keep these in mind when deciding whether or not acupuncture is right for you.
- Talk with your doctor first. They will be able to tell you more about this alternative therapy and how it can work with your current treatment plan.
- Remember that every patient is unique. Your symptoms are unique to you and professional acupuncturists understand this. Be sure that the one you choose listens to you.
- The benefits you get will depend on many factors. These include the severity of your symptoms, your other treatments, lifestyle changes you are making, and how often you go.
- Costs will vary. You can find a lot of different acupuncturists that offer low to high prices. Just know that the cheapest options may not be the best.