Arthritis, and specifically Rheumatoid Arthritis (the most common type of inflammatory arthritis) are characterised by symptoms of pain, swelling and mobility issues. As sufferers will know, the treatment of RA can be a challenge, with mainstream management comprising the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, analgesics, and biological agents.
Side effects and toxicity are an inevitable concern for many prescribed with pharmaceutical support, with sufferers increasingly seeking a complementary management approach through acupuncture.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) rheumatoid arthritis is categorized as a type of “Bi” syndrome, with “Bi” meaning a blockage or impediment in the affected channels, sinews, bones and joints.
The cause of a “Bi” syndrome is typically referred to in TCM terminology as the invasion of wind, cold, dampness, or heat pathogen on the meridians involving muscles, sinews, bones, and joints. This manifests in localised pain, discomfort, heaviness, heat, swelling, stiffness, and deformities.
As with all clinical research into the efficacy of acupuncture into various health complaints, discrepancy exists in the evidence for it “working” or “not working” for patients. Clinical study findings range from “ambiguous” to “conclusive” whether it contributes positively to patient’s quality of life, physical function and level of pain experienced.
One of the key criticisms of acupuncture research is the size of the trial groups and the ability to exactly replicate trial approaches; and therein lies the major sticking point when trying to analyse TCM against the framework of allopathic medicine; a bit like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole.
Speaking as a practitioner of TCM Acupuncture, my own case notes research on my own patients would indicate that it does have a positive effect but clearly this would not stand up to any so-called gold standard clinical trial scrutiny; but in my professional view the practical lived experience of people suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis should not be ignored or downplayed.
The actual mechanism by which acupuncture works also remains controversial. There is no definitive explanation for it. On this point, it is useful to note there is no definitive explanation as to how Paracetamol works either! Obviously the practice of Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into points on the “Meridian” or “Channels”, specifically selected for their “actions” in supporting the body’s natural response to heal. How it does this is subject to much debate.
This said, the anti-inflammatory effect of acupuncture is frequently cited. It is thought to suppress inflammatory responses, improve blood flow and relax muscles. Evidence also points towards its anti-oxidative effect, and regulation of immune system function.
As with all approaches to medicine, there is no single “magic cure” and a programme of treatment, in combination with changes to diet, lifestyle approaches over time is generally recommended.
There are very few side effects of Acupuncture, and a course of treatments with a reputable Practitioner degree qualified in TCM typically brings with a host of other benefits on an individual’s wellbeing.
The question of “will it work” is best addressed by trying for yourself.
About The Author
CONFIDENCE, ENERGY, SASS
To age with confidence is all about mindset. Fact. I know how it can feel when your body lets you down. And as a former International Athlete, I know exactly how it can feel when your body can’t do what it used to do. Or doesn’t look like it used to do.
But does that mean you can’t be proud of your body? No. Chance.
We can choose to let our energy levels, hormones, health issues, aches and pains, the lines and wrinkles that come with the ageing process define us.
Or we can choose to respect our bodies and find new ways to achieve better health.
YOUR TIME IS NOW
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