How Effective Is Acupuncture for Arthritis?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 03 May 2020
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Studies have generally shown that acupuncture for arthritis can be very effective, but there are still questions about the exact reason for this effectiveness. Science has mostly shown that the use of acupuncture can have a positive effect in treating many illnesses, and arthritis has been one of the main ailments it is often used for. In fact, for some arthritis patients, acupuncture may have more effectiveness in relieving their symptoms than many of the prescription medications they take. Some people who believe in the traditional explanations for acupuncture think this effectiveness comes from improvements in the flow of energy around the body, while others think it is because of the endorphin system, and others think it is primarily due to the placebo effect or a combination of factors.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that has been used for many centuries for a huge variety of illnesses. Many Chinese people over the centuries have traditionally believed in the idea that energy flow around the body is a very important factor in health, and over time, this led to the creation of an entire system, explaining the key spots on the body and various pathways for energy. Acupuncture involves the use of tiny needles inserted at strategic points to help unclog or correct flow problems in these pathways, which would theoretically help the person’s health improve. There has been a lot of skepticism at times about whether or not acupuncture is a viable way to treat people, but studies have continually shown that it has worked very well on certain ailments, especially when used as a complementary therapy. Over the centuries, many other ancient medical practices have been tossed aside after being disproved by science, but acupuncture is one of the treatments that has defied that trend and has even become more universally accepted in some cases after further research.

Not all scientists have accepted the traditional explanations for acupuncture, and many believe that the effectiveness of acupuncture for arthritis may be due to other physical or mental factors rather than energy flow. Since acupuncture generally involves inserting a needle into a person’s skin, it tends to stimulate the individual’s endorphin system to release the body’s internal pain-relieving chemicals, something that naturally happens in reaction to almost any injury. Some experts think this chemical release is the primary reason why clinical trials have almost universally shown that acupuncture for arthritis is a good treatment method. These natural chemicals, which are almost like morphine in terms of the body’s reaction to them, can help dull pain and have the potential to stimulate the person’s overall mental state as well, sometimes creating a euphoric effect.

According to skeptics, another potential reason for the effectiveness of acupuncture for arthritis is due to the placebo effect. This phenomenon can potentially lead to an actual physical reaction, and many experts believe it happens because the person’s body has become conditioned to react in advance to an expected stimulus. For example, when people smell food, they may begin to produce saliva in their mouths before they even start eating, and some experts think that the expected pain relief from an acupuncture treatment may cause the body to release endorphins as a similar kind of anticipatory reaction.


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