Acupuncture and Osteoarthritis (OA)
Affecting more than 27 million Americans, osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that results from a breakdown in the cartilage between the joints. This can lead to pain, stiffness and swelling of the affected areas, greatly impacting daily life. Referred to as “wear and tear arthritis,” OA can occur due to age, obesity, overuse/injury or genetics. A diagnosis of OA is made by a medical doctor who will examine the patient’s joints and possibly order imaging tests such as an MRI or X-ray. With a diagnosis of OA, a patient has several treatment options, from total joint replacement (severe) to physical therapy or other modalities (mild/moderate).
For patients with mild to moderate symptoms, acupuncture can be a valuable and successful treatment option. Acupuncture is the foundational modality in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), using the application of thin needles to the affected area and surrounding regions to stimulate blood flow and circulation. Acupuncture for OA can aid in increasing mobility and decreasing swelling, potentially allowing the patient better range of motion and less pain.
Numerous studies, including those by The National Institute of Health (NIH), support claims and research that acupuncture can be useful in treating OA. Many patients notice a difference in their condition after six to eight sessions. Acupuncture for osteoarthritis can be used alone, or in addition to other modalities, such nutrition therapy, injection therapy, physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. For patients looking for more natural treatment, acupuncture and other holistic forms of therapy can be the answer.
The Importance of Nutrition
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is crucial to everyone’s health; however, it is especially important for those who have been diagnosed with OA. Studies published by Nutrition Research have found that sufferers of OA who consume a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables experience reduced inflammation and, in turn, less pain in the joints. Similarly, those with OA who are also overweight have additional pressure on their weakened joints as a result of the excess weight. In conjunction with acupuncture, losing weight by adhering to a healthy diet can reduce this pressure and help to alleviate pain and inflammation.
Using Supplemental Treatment Options
In addition to acupuncture, supplemental treatment options can offer maximum relief of OA symptoms. Three of the most commonly utilized and compatible supplemental treatments include injection therapy, physical therapy and chiropractic care.
Injection therapy for osteoarthritis may include a number of injection types, although one of the most effective is known as viscosupplementation. Viscosupplementation is a non-invasive procedure which involves injecting hyaluronic acid directly into the joints. The gel-like acid acts as both a lubricant and cushion for the joints, allowing the sufferer to regain mobility and experience less pain.
Physical therapy is a treatment which harnesses the power of physical exercise. A therapist works closely with sufferers of OA to address problem areas. In turn, the therapist is able to create a custom regimen for each patient. With regular exercise and, in some cases, mechanical force, patients are able to work on affected areas to increase their level of strength and mobility.
Chiropractic care involves manual or mechanical manipulation of the spine and, in some instances, the neck. The techniques utilized aim to adjust and restore the spine to its natural alignment. Through these practices, the treated areas, including the joints, are able to regain mobility. It can decrease pain and assist in initiating the healing process. When paired with acupuncture for OA, chiropractic care can be an effective treatment option for mild to moderate cases.
Although there is no cure for OA, the condition can be managed through a number of treatment options which are largely dependent upon the severity of the patient’s condition. Acupuncture, along with supplementary treatments, can be an effective way for patients to manage pain, increase mobility and have a higher quality of life.