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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Using Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine to Treat Arthritis

Apr 01, 2017 01:11AM

by Dr. Christina Captain 


Arthritis is one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three Americans (an estimated 70 million people) is affected. For many people, arthritis pain increases with age because joints naturally degenerate over time. Fortunately, pain from arthritis can often be managed with acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. 

Arthritis isn’t just one disease, but a complex disorder that comprises more than 100 distinct conditions which can affect people during any stage of life. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in the United States, affecting an estimated 21 million adults. OA begins with the breakdown of joint cartilage, resulting in pain and stiffness. OA commonly affects the joints of the fingers, knees, hips and spine. Work-related repetitive injuries or physical trauma can contribute to the development of OA. If you have a strenuous job that requires repetitive bending, kneeling or squatting, for example, you could exhibit a higher risk for OA of the knee. 

According to Chinese Medical Theory, arthritis arises when the cyclical flow of Qi (vital energy) in the meridians (pathways that Qi flows) becomes blocked. This blockage is called “bi” type pain, and is successfully treated using a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine have been found extremely effective for treating the pain and inflammation associated with all types of arthritis.  

Traditional Chinese Medicine does not recognize arthritis as one particular syndrome. Instead, it aims to treat the specific symptoms which are unique to each individual, using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, bodywork, lifestyle or dietary recommendations, and energetic exercises to restore imbalances found in the body. 

Acupuncture points to treat arthritis are located all over the body, not just directly over the affected area. During the acupuncture treatment, tiny needles could be placed anywhere on your body. The duration and frequency of treatments will vary. Typical treatments last between 20 and 45 minutes, one or two times per week. Some symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments. 

Several studies have shown that acupuncture can help people with arthritic pain. A Scandinavian study showed that 25 percent of patients with arthritis, who had been scheduled for knee surgery, were able to cancel their procedures after acupuncture treatment. In this study, researchers compared acupuncture with advice and exercise for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the hip. 32 patients awaiting a total hip replacement were separated into two groups. One group received one 10-minute and five 25-minute sessions of acupuncture, and the other group received advice and hip exercises over a six-week period. 

Patients were assessed for both pain and functional ability. Patients in the acupuncture group showed significant improvements, while no significant changes were reported in the group that received advice and exercise therapy. The results of this study indicate that acupuncture is more effective than advice and exercise for treating OA of the hip. Another study at the University of Maryland showed that geriatric individuals with knee pain due to OA improved significantly when acupuncture was added to their treatment.  

The key to this study is that acupuncture was determined a safe modality for older patients with OA to utilize in treatment for their pain. The popularity of acupuncture in treating pain continues to grow because more people have found significant relief from acupuncture without the negative side effects that can result from pharmaceutical managements. 


Seek out only qualified licensed practitioners in your area through, the national accrediting body for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Dr. Captain is a nationally board-certified (NCCAOM) acupuncture physician and the lead practitioner at the Family Healing Center which she founded in 2000. She has a Master’s Degree in Human nutrition and a doctoral specialization in pain management and integrative medicine. For more information, visit 

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