Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease (=the body's immune system attacks itself) in which the joints and nearby tissues are destroyed.
The main symptoms will appear in the hands, knees and feet and include significant pain, stiffness, local heat and redness and may appear at any time during the day, but the pain is likely to be more severe in the morning.
The treatment of RA is complex. On one hand, slow the progression of the disease with the help of biological drugs or Disease Modifying Drugs. On the other hand, manage the chronic pain using painkillers, lifestyle changes through a healthy diet and exercise.
A recently published study from Italy demonstrated the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of pain and included 105 RA patients who were divided into 3 groups (1) true acupuncture treatment (2) placebo acupuncture treatment (3) wait-list without treatment. Patients from groups 1 and 2 received acupuncture treatment twice a week for 3 weeks followed by a clinical follow-up of additional 4 weeks.
The results showed that the group receiving true acupuncture experienced a significant clinical improvement in level of pain, ability to bear pressure, ability to join hands, arm strength, as well as a decrease in the number of swollen joints and an improvement in overall quality of life measures. In contrast, the group that received placebo acupuncture treatment did not experience a significant improvement while the group that remained on hold without treatment showed overall worsening.
Because RA is a chronic disease that entails a great deal of suffering over many years, adding acupuncture to the disease management tool-box is encouraging.
Susana Seca et al. (2019) J Alternative Complementary Medicine. 86-97. http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2018.0297