If you have osteoarthritis and are looking for a natural joint pain relief option, know that you’re not alone in your search – and that there is hope.
That’s because people with osteoarthritis have been using acupuncture as treatment for decades. Some use it as a stand-alone treatment, while others combine it with physical therapy to maximise results.
Whether you’re considering acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis, or you have joint pain in another area, here’s what you need to know about using acupuncture as a natural, pain-relieving option for osteoarthritis.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that involves degeneration of the bone and cartilage at the end of joints. It’s the most common type of arthritis in Australia and usually occurs later in life, with Aussies who have previous joint injuries being more at risk.
The joints most commonly impacted are the knee and hips, but it can develop in the hands, spine and other joints. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, osteoarthritis is the most common reason for knee and hip replacement surgery.
Arthritis Australia tells us these are the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis:
- Pain and stiffness in the joints
- Joint discomfort that is initially aggravated by activity, but can become more constant as the disease progresses
- Loss of joint flexibility
- Clicking in the affected joint
- Limited ability to walk, climb stairs, open jars.
There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis and the aim of treatment is to help with symptom management.
Acupuncture For Osteoarthritis
When you use acupuncture for osteoarthritis, you’re embracing a traditional Chinese medicine that’s more than 2,500 years old.
It involves inserting tiny needles into meridians (energetic highways) within the body to help minimise joint pain and inflammation. It’s considered a safe and natural way to minimise osteoarthritis symptoms – WITHOUT the nasty side effects associated with anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Many clinical trials have examined the effectiveness of acupuncture for osteoarthritis, with results being encouraging. Here are some of the findings:
One research paper consolidated the results of 10 randomised, controlled trials relating to the impact of acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis. It concluded that:
‘…acupuncture is an effective treatment for pain and physical dysfunction associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.”
Another study focused on using acupuncture for hip osteoarthritis. Results showed that acupuncture, in this instance, is likely to be most useful when used as an adjunct therapy. They found that after 8 weeks of treatment:
“…acupuncture plus routine primary physician care may improve pain and function compared to routine primary physician care alone.”
Acupuncture For Osteoarthritis Treatment
Using acupuncture for osteoarthritis treatment can benefit both the body and mind. Acupuncture helps to ‘unblock’ stuck energy and may improve the flow of blood and nutrients around the body. This can help patients with osteoarthritis to:
- Decrease pain, inflammation and stiffness
- Improve mobility and flexibility
- Get a better night’s sleep
- Reduce reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs, like acetaminophen or tylenol
- Enhance quality of life.
Osteoarthritis patients commonly report reduced pain intensity and improved functioning after acupuncture treatments.
For maximum benefits, it’s important to also lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. This will help to reduce the amount of stress on your joints and may help reduce pain. Strengthening the muscles in and around your site of pain will also help, and a physical therapist can help you with this.
Acupuncture Treatment For Knee Osteoarthritis
Acupuncture and osteoarthritis of the knee fit together like a hand in a glove.
This is because acupuncture has a long history of treating pain, including knee pain. From a science perspective, it does so by triggering the endocrine and central nervous systems to release anti-inflammatory substances, endorphins and neurotransmitters that help modulate the osteoarthritis-related pain response.
During treatment, your acupuncturist will likely begin by gently palpating your knee joint.
They will then consider the recommended acupuncture points for osteoarthritis knee pain and insert tiny needles into the side of the knee. This helps enhance the flow of blood and healing nutrients to the area.
Needles will also be inserted in locations that are away from the site of pain. These will help to release feel-good hormones and offer systemic support for reducing pain and inflammation.
To add an extra healing boost to your acupuncture session, try using your time on the acupuncture table to meditate. Meditating is a great way to reduce pain, and using it while you’re receiving acupuncture treatment for knee osteoarthritis is bound to multiply your results.
Ready to find a trusted Acupuncturist near you?