One of the most debilitating conditions known to man is osteoarthritis. This type of joint disease often affects the quality of life and mobility of its victims. Over the years, several forms of anti-inflammatory drugs have been manufactured to address this condition; the problem with all these drugs, however, is that they bring harmful side effects to the one taking them. This forces individuals to consider alternative types of medicine such as acupuncture and acupressure for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
There is no doubt that more and more people are turning to acupuncture and traditional bodyworks to resolve their osteoarthritis symptoms mainly because they don’t have any side effects. The truth is that a huge number of individuals have used acupuncture to help control the chronic pain caused by this debilitating condition. But what is osteoarthritis in the first place and how does acupuncture help in the control of this disease? Let’s find out.
As mentioned a while ago, osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the joints of a person. It is also known as degenerative arthritis and is an issue mainly characterized by the structural or functional failure of the joints. Osteoarthritis usually involves one whole joint with the underlying joint, ligaments, joint cover, muscles and joint lining affected. Sometimes, the progressive loss of the cartilage in the body may be also involved.
The degeneration of the cartilage usually happens with osteoarthritis although other diseases, injury, heredity and can also contribute to its development. The cartilage is made up of protein and functions as a sort of ‘cushion’ between the joints’ bones.
There are two types of osteoarthritis: primary and secondary osteoarthritis. The former is caused by aging when the cartilage begins to degenerate leading to the two joints that the cartilage prevents from colliding, to collide with each other resulting in mobility problems and pain. Primary osteoarthritis mainly is due to hereditary factors.
The latter, secondary osteoarthritis can be triggered by other diseases like hormone imbalance, obesity, gout and diabetes. Because it adds more pressure to the cartilage, obesity can heighten the mechanical stresses between the joints causing damage to them. Based on studies, obesity is the next most common reason for degenerative arthritis with aging still being the number one cause for the occurrence of such condition.
The main symptoms of osteoarthritis include restricted joint mobility, joint stiffness and pain and they differ in severity from person to person. Most conventional modalities for osteoarthritis are focused in the minimizing the inflammation and joint pain. There also treatments to help improve and maintain joint functions.
The Benefits of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a 5,000 year old treatment and is quite a powerful form of medicine capable of treating dozens of human illnesses. Medical research geared towards knowing how acupuncture actually works has only been done for during the last five decades. The huge popularity of natural and alternative forms of medicine like acupuncture and acupressure have perked the interest of a lot of western physicians in knowing the mechanisms and secrets of how these therapies work and how they are able to provide relief of pain to osteoarthritis sufferers.
Based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), when the flow of vital energy, called qi, is blocked or becomes imbalanced, illnesses arise. By using acupuncture, these blockages and imbalances can be resolved using very thin and special needles.
Acupuncturists believe that there are 20 meridians in the human body (12 major meridians and 8 secondary meridians) with around two thousand or so acupuncture points just above these meridians. When an acupuncture point is inserted with a needle, the meridian underneath this point is stimulated causing therapeutic benefits to affected organs of the body. This revered type of bodywork entails the use of very thin needles penetrating into the skin that are manipulated to make the therapeutic benefits stronger.
Studies Performed on Pain Management and Acupuncture
For several years, tons of researches have been done to study the effects of acupuncture in treating osteoarthritis. In some of these studies, acupuncture has been observed to activate the production and release of endorphins in the body. These endorphins are actually natural analgesics (painkillers) that help an osteoarthritis sufferer better deal with pain.
Other studies have indicated that a lot of the acupuncture points are situated near the nerves. These nerves can either create dull aches or fullness in the muscles when they are stimulated. Signals are transmitted to the central nervous system (composed of the brain and the spinal cord) when the muscles are stimulated causing the body to create and release endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that the body creates during times of pain or stress. Endorphins, along with other neurotransmitters aid in preventing the conveyance of pain signals to the brain. This allows the patient to feel less pain than he/she should.