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Acupuncture to treat ostoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease or Degenerative Arthritis, is a condition affecting 27 million Americans nationwide and is a leading cause of disability worldwide. It can cause debilitating pain that drastically affects the sufferers quality of life. When finding treatments for osteoarthritis, the process can seem never ending, however there are a variety of treatments that may help ease osteoarthritis pain, including acupuncture.

Here is How Acupuncture Can Help Treat Osteoarthritis

What is Osteoarthritis

Just as the name implies, Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of degeneration which can affect any joint in the body, including the spine but is most commonly found in the hands, neck, low back, knees, and hip. At the ends of our bones are areas that we call joints. These joints have a layer of cartilage between them that provides a cushioned, smooth gliding surface for joint mobility. In OA, this cartilage degrades which subsequently leads to pain, inflammation, and difficulty moving the joint. As OA progresses, the bones begin to break down developing growths called spurs and eventually the cartilage degrades to the point where the individual is left with bone rubbing bone; there is no cartilage left to cushion the movement of the joints and this condition is extremely painful. Once OA progresses to this point, your doctor may recommend procedures like a knee, hip, or shoulder replacement surgery.

Who is Affected by Osteoarthritis?

People of all ages can develop arthritis but it is most common in individuals over 65 years of age. Risk factors for developing RA are age, obesity, genetics, overuse of the joint, and previous injury to the joint (trauma including fractures, surgery, tears to tendons/ligaments). Statistics from arthritis.org reveal the following:

  • One in two adults will develop symptoms of knee OA during their lives
  • One in four adults will develop symptoms of hip OA by age 85
  • One in 12 people 60 years or older have OA of the hand(s)

Common Osteoarthritis Symptoms

General symptoms of OA are pain, swelling, stiffness or limited range of motion, and in more severe cases, deformity of the joint. Imaging tests, such as X-ray or MRI, can be used to determine the presence of OA. In some cases, Joint Aspiration may be done in which fluid from the joint is examined for the presence of deterioration. These procedures are important to rule out numerous other conditions that can be causing joint pain as well.

How Acupuncture Treats Osteoarthritis

Traditionally OA is treated using a variety of different methods such as pain/anti-inflammatory medications, Physical and Occupational Therapy, and surgery if the disease has caused significant destruction to the joint. However, there are also natural and adjunctive therapies that can be utilized when managing this condition as well.

In 2004, a landmark study was completed in the US showing the efficacy for using Acupuncture in the treatment of OA of the knee. This study showed that Acupuncture was effective in providing pain relief and improving function in individuals with this condition. Since this time there have been numerous other studies indicating Acupuncture’s ability to reduce pain, inflammation, and improve overall function in individuals with OA. Furthermore, Acupuncture coupled with electrical stimulation has been shown to strengthen surrounding muscles, reduce pain and reduce inflammation at the site of the joint.

Supplements Commonly Combined with Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis

In addition to Acupuncture, your licensed Acupuncture Physician may also use a combination of supplements, diet and lifestyle recommendations and herbal medicines to prevent the progression of this disease. Some examples of supplementation would be Glucosamine, Chondrointin Sulfate, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, and Proteolytic Enzymes like Bromelain (found in pineapple) which are anti-inflammatory and promote joint health.  Herbs like turmeric (curcumin) and ginger have also been shown to be beneficial in providing analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Frankincense essential oil (Boswelia) used topically has also been recognized to reduce pain/inflammation and slow cartilage damage with continued use. One dietary recommendation might be the consumption of bone broth. This soup will contain necessary ingredients to promote joint health including an abundance of collagen, the primary ingredient in cartilage.

Overall, it is important to note that everyone is different and as such may have slightly different needs in their care regimen. To discover which recommendations would work best for you, it's best to consult with a licensed Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) healthcare provider for guidance in implementing the best plan for your care. In the long term, acupuncture treatment combined with other treatments could be a solution to treating your osteoarthritis pain.

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