Acupuncture and arthritis


Acupuncture and arthritis


Acupuncture is a popular treatment for arthritis, with patients who receive acupuncture reporting improvements in their quality of life. It has been reported that acupuncture leads to stress relief, better sleep, an improved sense of wellbeing, and pain relief.

One study demonstrated that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the hand benefitted significantly from acupuncture. In this study, three groups were given acupuncture using the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) method of acupuncture where specific points of the body are targeted, acupuncture in random points around the body, or no treatment.

Participants who received treatment using the TCM approach reported less pain and improved quality of life, better hand and arm strength, and improved general health.

review of studies of the use of acupuncture in treating osteoarthritis (OA) in the knee also concluded that it effectively treats the pain and physical dysfunction associated with OA.


Side effects

Acupuncture is considered a gentle way to heal the body while causing little to no pain when performed by a qualified practitioner. In rare cases, there may be some mild, short term side effects, including bleeding, bruising, pain, drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, or worsening of symptoms.

If symptoms change or worsen following treatment, TCM practitioners believe that this could be due to blockages in the flow of qi that were not apparent initially, and have been revealed. In these cases, subsequent treatments are necessary to address new symptoms.


Other treatments

OA and RA treatments are different due to the differing factors that cause the conditions. Mild OA symptoms can be managed by exercising, maintaining a moderate weight, wearing supportive footwear, and using devices or techniques to reduce strain on the joints. Painkillers may be necessary to relieve symptoms in more severe cases.

Treatments that doctors prescribe for RA are generally either disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biological therapies.


DMARDs and biological treatments

DMARDs ease symptoms of RA and slow its progression. They minimise the effects of the chemicals that are released when the immune system attacks the joints, and these chemicals can continue to cause damage to nearby bones, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

Biological treatments are generally taken alongside DMARDs if the DMARD was not effective on its own. They work by stopping specific chemicals in the blood from triggering the immune system to attack the joints.



As arthritis is unique for each individual, different treatments can be combined to manage it effectively. Many people use acupuncture as a treatment for relief, often alongside other medications.

Scientists are yet to explain exactly how acupuncture is effective, but it may be worth trying.

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