Acupuncture for Rheumatoid Arthritis

By

Diana Kelly

Was this helpful? (1)
This content is selected and managed by the Healthgrades editorial staff and is brought to you by an advertising sponsor.
x

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

ADVERTISEMENT
acupuncture-on-knee

When you suffer from the autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you’ve probably become used to daily aches, as well as joint stiffness and inflammation in your knees, hips, elbows and wrists. If you’re looking for an alternative treatment to help alleviate some of your pain, you might want to consider acupuncture. This ancient form of Chinese medicine involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. And it’s thought to restore the optimal flow of energy and balance in the body.

Many acupuncturists view acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue, possibly boosting your body's natural painkillers and increasing blood flow. Several studies have examined how this alternative medicine may help rheumatoid arthritis patients and found that acupuncture has a positive effect on the cells that contribute to chronic inflammation and joint destruction associated with RA. Acupuncture may help decrease your RA pain, reduce morning stiffness, and abate inflammation.

Traditional Acupuncture and RA

Acupuncture relieves pain by stimulating the release of endorphins, a brain chemical that makes you feel happy, relaxed, and alleviates pain. This practice may help with your autoimmune disorder because it affects immunity, as well as having neurological, hormonal and psychological effects on the body.

Acupuncture stimulates specific acupoints, which cluster near nerves. Needle placement activates the nerve and sends a signal to the spinal cord and brain, the pain centers of the nervous system. These are then activated to produce endorphins, which is how acupuncture works to reduce or eliminate pain.

What to Expect

First, do your research. Find a licensed acupuncturist who will be able to address your rheumatoid arthritis. Allow yourself about an hour for the initial evaluation. The acupuncturist should discuss your RA symptoms, as well as your lifestyle and behaviors.

When a needle is inserted into the skin at your body’s acupoint, you might feel soreness, tingling, or electrical sensations. These feelings are associated with nerves being activated. The needles will remain in place for about 10 to 20 minutes while you lie still and relax. After they needles are removed, you might have soreness, minor bleeding, or slight bruising at the needle sites over the next few days.

Electro-Acupuncture and RA

Electro-acupuncture is similar to traditional acupuncture but the needles are stimulated with a mild  wave of electrical current that passes between pairs of acupuncture needles. One study has shown that electro-stimulation may even be more effective because it offers more consistent stimuli of the body’s pressure points, working faster and over a larger area than a practitioner would be able to in the same time frame.

Will Acupuncture Cure Your RA?

Acupuncture hasn’t been shown to prevent joint damage from RA or other autoimmune diseases. Research is conflicting as to whether this form of Chinese medicine can control inflammation, although some patients have reported less inflammation after undergoing treatment. What we do know is that acupuncture can help with RA-related pain by stimulating the production of endorphins. This  contributes to an elevated overall sense of well-being and improved quality of life. Acupuncture is probably best used in conjunction with RA disease-modifying medications to fight pain with minimal side effects.

Was this helpful? (1)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 13, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Can Acupuncture Help Relieve RA? ArthritisToday.org. http://www.arthritistoday.org/about-arthritis/types-of-arthritis/rheumatoid-arthritis/treatment-plan...
  2. Acupuncture: Can It Help My Rheumatoid Arthritis? Meng, Charis F. Hospital for Special Surgery. http://www.hss.edu/conditions_acupuncture-can-it-help-rheumatoid-arthritis.asp#.VPoRFoHF9XA
  3. Acupuncture: Definition. MayoClinic.org. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/acupuncture/basics/definition/prc-20020778

Watch: Managing RA

You Might Also Like

Share via Email

PREVIOUS ARTICLE:

9 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About RA Treatments

NEXT ARTICLE:

Assistive Devices Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain