“I don’t know whether or not acupuncture deals with arthritis, but if you have any ideas about treating it, please let me know”.
Last month I received this question in an e-mail from a woman with knee pain. In response, I sent her an article I wrote about acupuncture and knee pain from October 2009 issue of Westview. Here is an excerpt from it:

According to the largest scientific clinical trial of acupuncture ever conducted, which was published in the December 21, 2004 Annals of Internal Medicine, acupuncture provided pain relief and improved function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Considering more than 20 million Americans have this disease, which is one of the most frequent causes of disability among adults, this is indeed good news.

Osteoarthritis can occur from age, repetitive movements, traumatic injury or genetic predisposition. The cartilage between the joints becomes damaged. Bony outgrowths can form and inflammation may occur as the disease progresses. The muscles and soft tissue around the joint become tight and knotty from a lack of normal blood flow which causes limited range of motion and pain. Acupuncture does not cause cartilage to grow and it does not decrease bony outgrowths. What strategically inserted acupuncture needles can do, however, is to release the muscle and soft tissue (fascia) surrounding the joint, resulting in an improved flow of blood, a decrease of pain and often an increase in mobility. In addition, acupuncture has an analgesic effect from the release of pain-relieving hormones into the blood. For related studies browse ‘acupuncture-analgesia-morphine-naloxone’.

More often than not, people report other ‘side-effects’ from acupuncture–“I feel much calmer,” “My headaches are better”, “I slept like a baby,” and “I have more energy,” are among some of the many reactions to an acupuncture treatment that I hear often.

I treated the woman who sent me the e-mail one time for her knee pain and saw her walking in the neighborhood about three weeks later.
“How is your knee?” I asked.
“It has been perfect. Knock on wood,” she answered and I walked home with a smile.

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