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Acupuncture for arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting 80 percent of those aged 65 or older. It most commonly affects the joints in the hips, hands, lower back and knees, causing severe and chronic pain, and can have a profoundly disabling effect. Conventional treatment includes medication to control pain and inflammation, physical therapy and in severe cases, joint replacement surgery.

There is  substantial evidence that acupuncture can reduce pain, improve functional mobility and enhance quality of life for patients with osteoarthritis and can offer a safe and effective drug-free alternative, with substantially less side effects than many drugs, or other accepted medical procedures. In one of the largest and most rigorous reviews of acupuncture ever conducted, involving over 17,000 subjects and 29 randomised control trials, acupuncture was found to provide effective pain relief and increase mobility in osteoarthritis of the knee.

Acupuncture may also be helpful for other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The evidence isn’t conclusive for this condition, but there are studies showing both traditional and electro-acupuncture may help reduce tenderness and inflammation.

How much acupuncture will I need?

Regular weekly acupuncture sessions over over eight to twelve weeks is associated with greater reduction in pain and long-term benefit. As with all treatments to relieve pain, breaking the ‘pain cycle’ sometimes gives permanent relief. The degree of pain relief will depend on the type of arthritis, where it is and how long you have had it. Once pain relief is achieved, patients have ‘top up’ sessions to manage the condition.

 …acupuncture can give long term pain relief and improved mobility…



How acupuncture helps arthritis

It is thought that acupuncture reduces pain by altering the way it is processed by the brain and spinal cord. Certain acupuncture points have been shown to deactivate parts of the brain that deal with the perception of pain. Acupuncture also stimulates the release of endorphins and natural opioids, which have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Acupuncture reduces local inflammation and swelling by increasing microcirculation and promoting the release of vascular and immune enhancing factors. It relaxes tight muscles and trigger points which contribute to pain in the surrounding muscle tissue.

Diet and lifestyle

A well-balanced diet is vital when you have arthritis. Not only will you ensure your body has a good supply of essential nutrients, but it will be easier to maintain a healthy body weight. Many people find that losing a few pounds improves pain management by reducing the stress placed on weight bearing joints.

Be sure to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and keep sugary and processed foods to a minimum. Omega 3 oils have been shown to give some relief from the symptoms of arthritis.  This can be take either in the form of a good quality fish oil supplement or by eating two portions of oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna a week.

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