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I recently had a request from another acupuncturist to post an article that she had written about acupuncture and arthritis. So, enjoy... In the United States arthritis is one of the most pervasive diseases in our population, affecting one out of every three Americans. According to The Center of Disease Control and Prevention, it is the leading cause of disability in our country. Most people experience the inflammation and pain of arthritis after the age of 50 due to the natural degeneration of our joints over time. However, some people will begin to to feel the effects earlier in life. This can be due to their type of work, repetitive activities, or simply genetics.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common forms, and they vary in their causes, risk factors and effects on the body. Both of these types of arthritis can cause the joints to feel like they are on fire during flare-ups.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects many different joints and in some people, can affect other parts of the body such as the heart, lungs,or blood. It can be a disease of flare ups and remissions, or can last a long time. RA has been linked with autoimmune disease. Inflammation of the joint lining can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, warmth and redness. Some affected joints may lose their shape, restricting normal movements. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and begins with the breakdown of joint cartilage. The affected area becomes tender, swollen, painful and stiff.

New research shows that these two forms of arthritis are among the conditions relieved when treated with acupuncture (Arthritis Today, 1/29/13.) A randomized, clinical trial at the University of Maryland has shown that elderly patients with knee pain due to arthritis improved significantly when acupuncture was added to their treatment. In a Scandinavian study, 25% of patients who had been scheduled for knee surgery cancelled their operations after a series of acupuncture treatments. None of the patients in these studies reported side effects from any of the acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine view arthritis as a complex disorder that comprises more than 100 distinct conditions and can affect people at any stage of life. When you visit an acupuncturist, they will look for all of the conditions in your life that have contributed to your arthritis. Your treatment will be designed to address relief of symptoms and their underlying causes, with the intention of preventing future flare-ups and progression of the disease. Each treatment is unique to the person being treated and can vary with each visit.

Acupuncture works on the "meridian system," or channels of energy that run through our bodies. This energy (called Qi) interacts with our nervous system, blood flow, matrix and organs. Insertion of needles into the appropriate places will trigger pain-relieving endorphins, reduce the inflammation, and improve blood flow to release stiffness in the joints. Acupuncture can also deactivate the part of the brain that deals with pain so that perception of it is reduced.

Managing arthritis of any type with acupuncture is beneficial for pain management as well as overall well-being, contributing to a more comfortable and improved quality of life.

This post was written for Healing Point Therapeutics by Karen Danish, LAP. Karen is a licensed Tampa FL Acupuncture physician and a valued staff member at Anne Hermann MD, PA.