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Is Acupuncture treatment is the best alternative therapy for osteoarthritis?

What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joint gradually which is known in Western medicine as wear and tear. The cause of OA is unknown, however it may be caused by either repeated injury or excess stress to the joint or as a result from deformity or in condition when the patient is overweight.

Who is affected by OA?
This disorder is mostly affected middle-aged and older people, but also young people may inherit OA or experience continuous irritation from untreated torn meniscus or other injury which develop later the signs and symptoms of OA. About two thirds of population with OA are younger than age 65, who suffer from common symptoms—persistent joint pain and stiffness.
What are the signs and symptoms of OA?
The patients with OA are usually suffering from daily pain when they do simple tasks such as turning a key, getting up from a chair, reaching to grasp something, holding an object, throwing a ball to your grandchildren, writing a note or letter or even just trying to move
without constant sharp, throbbing, gnawing aches. They complain from excruciating inflamed joint pain that prevent their recreational activities and productivity at work, and many lose their jobs because their pain affects decision making and causes absenteeism. This clinical picture may be associated with fatigue, sleep disruption, and depression which might affect their relationships with friends and family.
What are the western treatment of OA?
Usually osteoarthritis is treated with pain-killers (pain-reducing medicines), such as paracetamol, aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) or sometime by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin, Advil). Also these types of analgesia are coupled with exercises to strengthen and to restore joint movements. The patients with OA should be advised to Loss excess of weight which might help them with joint's pain and stiffness.
What is the role of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in treatment of OA?
The OA is regarded in Chinese medicine as a subgroup of Bi-syndrome (Tukmachi, 1999) which is a classic example of how a disease is caused by the invasion of external pathogenic factors such as Wind, Cold, or Dampness. According to these external pathogenic factors, the following four patterns of arthritis are differentiated to address these patterns:
1.Wind Pattern. Exposure to wind is an important cause of the Wind pattern of arthritis. The Wind pattern of arthritis is characterized by joint soreness and pain. The pain moves from joint to joint like wind. Movement of joints is limited. Aversion to wind and fever is experienced. Thin and white tongue coating and a floating pulse is read by Chinese medicine practitioners.
2.Cold Pattern. The Cold pattern of arthritis is characterized by a severe pain in a joint or muscle. The pain has a fixed location. The pain is reduced by warmth and increased by cold. Movement of joints is limited. Thin and white tongue coating and a wiry and tight pulse are read.
3.Damp Pattern. The Damp pattern of arthritis is characterized by pain, soreness, and swelling in muscles and joints with a feeling of heaviness and numbness of the limbs. The pain has a fixed location and is aggravated by damp weather. White and sticky tongue coating and soggy and slow pulse are read.
4.Heat Pattern. The Heat pattern of arthritis is originated from any of the above three patterns. It is characterized by a severe pain and hot-red-swollen joints. The pain is reduced with cold. Aversion to wind, fever, thirsty and anxiety might be experienced. Yellow and dry tongue coating and slippery and rapid pulse are read.
Acupuncture therapy for OA has low side effects which are substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for it. From the perspective of acupuncturists and patients, the results of treatment have often been good. Our clinical research trials at the Department of Rheumatology, Birmingham University have provide an opportunity to demonstrate the clinical benefit (and economic saving) of acupuncture for patients with osteoarthritis (Tukmachi, E.S.A., Dempsey, E., Jubb, R.W. (2004); Tukmachi, E.S.A. (2000); Tukmachi, E.S.A. (1990); Jubb RW, Tukmachi ES, Jones PW, Dempsey E, Waterhouse L, Brailsford S. (2008)). Considerable evidence supports the claim that opioid peptides are released during acupuncture and that the analgesic effects of acupuncture are at least partially explained by their actions. Stimulation by acupuncture may also activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects. Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and changes in the regulation of blood flow, both centrally and peripherally, have been documented.  Western acupuncture treatment of OA is usually directed specifically at the trigger points, which are found in and around the joint, including ligaments, tendons, articular fat pads and muscles. Deactivation of these trigger points can be achieved by the acupuncture technique of dry needle stimulation. While in Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, osteoarthritis is a subgroup of Bi-syndrom (Tukmachi, 1999). Bi-syndrome is a classical example of how a disease is caused by the invasion of external pathogenic factors such as Wind, Cold, or Dampness. According to these external pathogenic factors, the following four patterns of arthritis are differentiated and the leading herbs to address these patterns are discussed.
It is believed that the meridians (energy pathways) are blocked with arthritis, or generally Bi-syndrome indicating pain, soreness or numbness of muscles, tendons and joints in traditional Chinese medicine. As a result, the Chi and Blood in the meridians are obstructed. Acupuncture helps open the blockage, balance the energy, and harmonize the Chi and Blood.
Why patients with OA in UK regarded acupuncture treatment as the first choice of alternative treatment?
Firstly, acupuncture is widely practised in the United Kingdom., Promising results have emerged, for example, showing efficacy of acupuncture in non-painful conditions (Tukmachi, 1999) as well as painful conditions such osteoarthritis (Tukmachi, 1991, 1999). Secondly, acupuncture is a useful adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative to Western therapy or included in a comprehensive management program for most painful conditions.
What are the factors which contribute to make the acupuncture treatment successful in OA?
Number of acupuncture treatment sessions.
Methods of needle stimulation (electrical, manual or both).
Duration and frequency of needle stimulation.
Whether "Teh-chi" sensation by needle insertion (e.g. numbness, tingling, soreness...etc) were sought
Point classification (the classical Chinese points, motor points, trigger points, points within the dermatome...etc).
Diagnosis (Western and, if appropriate, traditional Chinese acupuncture diagnosis).
Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful. There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value.                                                             
The Acumedica clinics have the highest standard of acupuncture treatment and the exceptional patient care in Osteoarthritis. If you suffer from this problem, acupuncture may be what you've been looking for to ease your signs and symptoms and reclaim your health and vitality. Please call us for a consultation today at www.acumedica.co.uk