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Acupuncture for Arthritis

Scientists have studied acupuncture for arthritis pain relief and report positive results. 

Western medicine distinguishes two types of arthritis:  osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Although common in modern civilization, these disorders occur very rarely or not at all in some so-called primitive cultures.  The rheumatoid variety only occurs in cultures consuming grain-based diets. 

Osteoarthritis involves degeneration of the cartilage, and typically occurs on only one side of the body; for example, you will have one arthritic knee, not both.

The Merck Manual Online states that “Normal joints have little friction with movement and do not wear out  with typical use, overuse,  or trauma.”  If so, then why do people get degenerative arthritis?  Conventional medicine does not offer any explanation. 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) involves autoimmune activity wherein the individual's immune system attacks the joint tissues. RA usually affects the joints bilaterally, so for example it will occur in both hands.  

The Merck Manual states “Although RA involves autoimmune reactions, the precise cause is unknown; many factors may contribute.” 

Both types of arthritis involve pathological calcium deposits in the joints, and patients commonly have both arthritis and arteriosclerosis involving calcium deposits in the arteries.  This indicates that both types involve an imbalance of nutrients required for proper utilization of calcium.  Below I will discuss dietary factors contributing to RA.

Acupuncture for Arthritis

Regular use of acupuncture for arthritis can reduce the pain and inflammation associated with either OA or RA by promoting the flow of blood to and from the affected area.  However it does not promote recovery of degenerative cartilage or reduce autoimmune reactions by itself.  Treatment of the underlying inflammation and in the case of RA autoimmune activity requires the use of herbal medicine, nutritional supplements, and dietary changes.

Chinese Herbal Medicine for Arthritis

Chinese herbal medicines provide anti-inflammatory and immune-regulating effects to reduce arthritic pain, inflammation, and stiffness.

In a study [abstract here] done at Shanghai Municipal Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, researchers randomly assigned 90 RA patients to receive a traditional Chinese herbal medicine formula (SQDD) or methotrexate (MTX) with 45 cases in each group.  After 24 weeks of treatment, the group treated with herbal medicine had reductions in symptoms and signs similar to the methotrexate group.  "The patient's global assessment and physician's global assessment, morning stiffness, grip strength, tender joint count, swollen joint count and the levels of ESR, CRP and anti-CCP antibody in SQDD and MTX groups were improved significantly as compared with those before treatment, and there were no significant differences between the two groups. The efficacy of MTX in improving rest pain and joint tenderness was better than that of SQDD (P<0.05). The incidence rate of adverse reactions in SQDD group was 9.75%(4/41), significantly lower than 32.5% (13/40) in MTX group (P<0.05)."  Thus, the herbal medicine treatment produced similar relief to MTX, with one-quarter the adverse effects. 

Teekachunhatean et al compared the Chinese herbal formula Duhuo Jisheng Wan (DJW) with the analgesic diclofenac in symptomatic treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee [full text here] . They concluded that "DJW demonstrates clinically comparable efficacy to diclofenac after 4 weeks of treatment."

Food Therapy

Inflammation of the joints may arise from inflammation of the gut.  Some evidence indicates that diet may cause gut inflammation and trigger the auto-immune reactions found in RA.  Several research projects have shown that reducing intakes of animal protein and fat can relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and many people find that eating less animal foods reduces joint pain.

Both types of joint inflammation involve pathological calcium deposits. Vitamins A, D3, and K all regulate the metabolism and deposition of calcium.  Current research suggests that deficiencies of D3 and K may contribute to arthritis, including RA.  A whole foods plant based diet rich in green leafy vegetables and regular sunlight exposure will supply adequate amounts of these vitamins.

Excessive intake of all types of fats, especially saturated fats, but including common vegetable oils, creates a generally inflammatory condition in the body. 

Supplementation of glucosamine sulfate can relieve and reduce the progression of OA.


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