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Acupuncture for Arthritis

To ease arthritispain, you do not necessarily have to rely solely on pain pills and steroids; there are a few alternative treatments that may help you find relief, including acupuncture.

What Is Acupuncture and How Does It Work?

Sixteenth Century Chinese doctors believed that illness was due to an imbalance of energy in the body. In acupuncture, disposable, stainless steel needles are used to stimulate the body's 14 major meridians, or energy-carrying channels, to resist or overcome illnesses and conditions by correcting these imbalances.

Acupuncture is also thought to decrease pain by increasing the release of chemicals that block pain, called endorphins. Many acu-points are near nerves. When stimulated, these nerves cause a dull ache or feeling of fullness in the muscle. The stimulated muscle sends a message to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), causing the release of endorphins (morphine-like chemicals produced in our own bodies during times of pain or stress). Endorphins, along with other neurotransmitters (body chemicals that modify nerve impulses), block the message of pain from being delivered up to the brain.

What Conditions Are Treated With Acupuncture?

Although acupuncture is not a "cure-all" treatment, it can be effective in treating several diseases and conditions. Acupuncture is most effective at treating chronic pain, such as arthritis, low back, neck or muscle pain, and pain after surgery. Some studies have shown it to be an effective treatment for dental pain, fibromyalgia and nausea associated with chemotherapy. More studies are needed to see how effective acupuncture is to treat headaches, pain from shingles, facial pain and as an aid to quit smoking.  

It's important not to rely on acupuncture for treatment of chronic or serious illness unless you see a doctor first. Acupuncture may not be the best way to improve your condition. Your healthcare provider may recommend acupuncture treatment along with other treatment methods such as physical therapy or medication. For certain conditions, such as cancer, acupuncture should only be performed in combination with other treatments.

What Happens During Acupuncture Treatment?

The acupuncturist, the person who performs acupuncture, will swab each acu-point area with alcohol before tapping a hair-thin, metal needle into the site. The number of needles used during treatment can vary and are placed at various depths. They are placed under the skin in carefully determined points on the body.

After the needles have been inserted, they stay in place for several minutes to an hour. During the treatment, acupuncture needles are twirled, energized electrically, or warmed to intensify the effect of the treatment. When electricity is applied, a tingling sensation is common. However, if the sensation becomes too strong, you can ask your acupuncturist to reduce the electricity at any time.

In a treatment series, the acupuncturist will use different combinations of points, different needling techniques, or both. These combinations help stimulate new sources of healing as the person's response to treatment is observed.

WebMD Medical Reference

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