Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes the cartilage, which cushions and protects the joints, to slowly erode away. This increases friction every time the joints are used, roughing up the cartilage, and could eventually lead to bone touching bone. The cartilage at the end of a healthy bone should not be quite as hard as bone and it should be less flexible than muscle, thus promoting nice, fluid movements at the joints. Areas of the body made up of cartilage include the nose, ears, and all of the joints. It is mainly the joints of the hands, knees, hips, and spine that are affected by osteoarthritis.
The signs and symptoms that may occur at joints afflicted with osteoarthritis include the following:
- Joint pain and tenderness
- Stiffness, especially in the morning
- Loss of mobility and flexibility
- Crepitus--a crinkly sensation or a grating sound arising from movement of the joints
- Bone spurs--an outgrowth of tiny, bony slivers found along the edge of a bone
The following list includes risk factors for osteoarthritis:
- Advanced age
- Female gender
- Prior injuries
- Certain genetic bone deformities
There is no known cure for osteoarthritis, so standard Western medical treatment will often focus on managing symptoms with drug therapy--using certain NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and other analgesics such as ibuprofen. However, these drugs provide only temporary relief from pain and may cause side effects such as stomach cramps, dizziness and, at worst, difficulty breathing. Fortunately, studies reveal the ability of acupuncture and Oriental medicine can provide significant pain relief in those with osteoarthritis.
A study published by the journal BMC, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 14; 2014, entitled "Pain Management with Acupuncture in Osteoarthritis: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis," cast light on the efficacy of using acupuncture and Oriental medicine to help alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis. Several published scientific studies were reviewed and synthesized in order to reach this conclusion.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine treatments were found to have outstanding results in pain reduction, regaining mobility in the joints, and enhancement of overall quality of life. The research team discovered that when at least 10 acupuncture treatments were received over approximately four weeks, patients reported a significant decrease in their levels of pain. This, in turn, facilitated the return of functional mobility in their joints. Therefore, the researchers concluded that acupuncture and Oriental medicine can safely be considered a viable therapy for pain relief in cases of osteoarthritis.
For the osteoarthritis patient who suffers from adverse effects of certain medications, is pregnant, or prefers to manage their pain with less or no pharmaceutical drugs, this news can be a relief. Another factor to consider is weight, as sometimes maintaining a healthy weight proves difficult and the extra pounds may contribute to the pain associated with osteoarthritis. If any of this is the case for you, this is a good time to make an appointment with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.