How Acupuncture Affects Arthritis Symptoms

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine or TCM dating back thousands of years, and it involves inserting thin needles into acupressure points on the body to help relieve pain. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that there are more than 2,000 of these body points that are connected by meridians (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). According to TCM practitioners, pain and disease result when the energy in the body is blocked or becomes imbalanced. When needles are inserted into certain areas of the body, they correct the flow of energy and relieve pain or improve certain ailments.

Acupuncture is used to treat a variety of conditions, including headaches, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, addiction, anxiety, depression, insomnia, sinusitis, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and pain (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). While putting needles in your body may sound painful, John Hopkins Medicine explains that there isn't much pain during an acupuncture session when it is performed correctly. Some patients even claim they feel energized, while others say acupuncture helps them relax. For people with arthritis, acupuncture can be an effective reliever of pain symptoms.

Acupuncture may help with chronic pain

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that while there is still much to learn about acupuncture, it does seem to help certain types of pain, including arthritis pain. In fact, a 2012 review published in JAMA Internal Medicine of studies involving more than 18,000 patients cited acupuncture as a "reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain."

One reason why acupuncture may ease arthritis pain is that inserting needles may activate the central nervous system, which causes a chemical reaction, triggering the body's ability to heal, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. Brian Berman, M.D., professor of family and community medicine and director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told the Arthritis Foundation that when a needle is placed in an acupuncture point, it sends a signal that triggers the release of chemicals, such as endorphins and enkephalins, that may reduce the perception of pain. In addition, acupuncture may cause the brain to release cortisol, a hormone that controls inflammation.