Should You Try Acupuncture For Arthritis & Joint Pain? (Benefits, Risks, & Alternatives)
Written by: Lauren Villa - Dec. 4, 2019
When I was in college, my roommate started developing chronic pain. She had trouble eating, sleeping, and eventually became very depressed. When going to class became an uphill battle, she finally booked an appointment at the student health center to see a doctor. After having her blood work done, the doctor told her she had rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
And so began the hunt for alternative ways to deal with the pain. We turned to Google and found a clinic that offered acupuncture for arthritis. My roommate wasn’t familiar with acupuncture and felt overwhelmed by the idea of seeking out a form of complementary medicine. Although I hadn’t experienced arthritis myself, watching my friend deal with the complexities of the diagnosis taught me a lot about the condition.
If you’re living with arthritis and looking for ways to relieve pain, this blog will give you an overview of the pros and cons of using acupuncture for arthritis and alternative ways of dealing with joint pain. There is plenty of research that says that acupuncture for arthritis is beneficial, but there are other studies that show that it is not beneficial.
- What causes arthritis and joint pain?
- What is acupuncture?
- How does acupuncture help arthritis?
- Pros and cons of getting acupuncture for arthritis
- Other alternatives to relieving joint pain and arthritis
What Causes Arthritis & Joint Pain?
Arthritis is a condition that affects people of all ages and backgrounds and although millions of people suffer from arthritis, few people actually understand it. According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), an estimated 54.4 million US adults (22.7%) annually had ever been told by a medical professional that they had some form of arthritis, gout (buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints), fibromyalgia (widespread muscle pain), rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus (an inflammatory disease).
The term arthritis does not refer to a single disease, but rather it’s an umbrella term used to refer to joint pain. In fact, there are over 100 types of arthritis. The majority of arthritis conditions cause pain and stiffness in the joints. Other types, such as rheumatoid arthritis, affect the immune system. The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis include:
- Decreased range of motion
Over time, the symptoms of arthritis can get worse and worse, making it difficult to do everyday activities like climb stairs or walk briskly. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray. Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys, and skin as well as the joints.
Age certainly puts you at risk for experiencing arthritis, but what else explains why someone gets arthritis and joint pain? The truth is there are many causes for arthritis, many of them stemming from uncontrolled inflammation in the body.
Risk factors for arthritis include, but are not limited to:
- Genetics (runs in the family)
- Injury or infection
- Wear and tear on joints and breakdown of cartilage
If you are struggling with arthritis and looking for pain relief, acupuncture for arthritis is worth looking into.
What is Acupuncture?
Before we dive into answering the question of “does acupuncture help arthritis? ” let’s take a step back and talk about what acupuncture actually is and where it came from.
Acupuncture was developed forever ago in China. I know forever is not an exact term, but we’re talking millennia. In fact, the practice of acupuncture is believed to predate recorded history. During the Stone Age, humans didn’t have perfectly thin needles to puncture the skin, so they got creative. They used stones and handmade tools.
Safe to say, I’m very happy about the advances in modern medicine! Can you imagine being punctured with a giant stone? Ouch.
Fast forward a few centuries and acupuncture makes its way to the West. Today, it’s a fairly common form of complementary medicine. But, how does acupuncture relieve pain? Acupuncture stimulates certain points on the body using needles. According to traditional Chinese medicine, “Qi” or life force circulates throughout the body via meridians. There are 365 points (called acupoints) along these meridians that acupuncturists can stimulate using needles. Inserting needles at varying depths into the skin can help clear meridians or energy pathways in the body. The end result? A harmonious balance of “yin” and “yang” in the body and a clear flow of “Qi”. Each needle penetrates the skin helping to treat a number of health ailments—from chronic pain to depression. According to Chinese medicine, health issues arise when the yin and yang are out of balance.
How Does Acupuncture Help Arthritis?
Arthritis is caused by inflammation in the body. AKA an imbalance of Qi. As more science emerges about the harmful effects of medication, many people who struggle with arthritis look to more holistic therapies like acupuncture for relief. However, there are varying findings in the research about the efficacy of acupuncture for arthritis. In a meta-analysis (AKA a huge review of over 500 clinical trials) investigating the efficacy of using acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia (a type of arthritis), researchers were unable to reach a conclusion. The study stated that there was not enough evidence to prove the efficacy of acupuncture therapy for the treatment of fibromyalgia. (2)
Let’s look at another trend in the world of arthritis treatment. If you guessed collagen, you’re right.
In a meta-analysis of collagen supplementation used to treat osteoarthritis, researchers found that collagen led to a significant reduction in stiffness and pain across studies and was effective in improving arthritis symptoms. (3)
Bottom line? Acupuncture is a complementary medicine that people have used to treat pain for millennia. While acupuncture is a treatment that’s been used for a LONG time, there are other ways to improve joint pain—like using a collagen supplement that helps to support joint cartilage. Our SkinnyFit Super Youth collagen is an excellent way to get all 5 types of collagen daily and help repair joint health. If you’re wondering, “Does acupuncture help arthritis” or “Should I use a collagen supplement?” the best answer to that question is to give both a try and see how you feel. One might work better than the other… or maybe you fall in love with using both! You won’t know until you try.
Pros & Cons Of Getting Acupuncture For Arthritis
Like any form of treatment, it’s always a good idea to do your research beforehand so you are fully aware of what you’re signing up for. Whether you already booked the appointment or you’re weighing whether or not you should research more about acupuncture practitioners in your area, here’s an overview of the pros and cons of acupuncture for arthritis.
- Some health insurances will cover the cost or partial cost. Check with your policy to see if they cover acupuncture appointments. More and more insurance companies are starting to cover these services.
- It can help you feel relaxed. You may leave an acupuncture session feeling incredibly relaxed. The entire goal of acupuncture is to relieve pain and restore qi to the body. If you have an effective session, you could expect to feel pretty good afterward.
- You may feel sleepy. Many people find themselves getting sleepy after acupuncture. Make sure to schedule your appointment with that in mind. It might be a good idea to bring along a buddy to drive you!
- It can cause infections
- Be sure to check the sanitary standards at your clinic to ensure that the needles are being disinfected properly. Without proper sanitation, you could easily contract an infection. You can ask the clinicians to show you how the needles are cleaned or if they come packaged.
- It often takes a long time to see results. Like all forms of traditional medicine, it’s not a silver bullet. Acupuncture takes time to work in the body, so don’t expect drastic results after the first session. Talk with your medical professional about how many sessions they recommend in your treatment program. Because arthritis is a chronic condition, you may need ongoing treatment to see long-term results.
Is There A Better Alternative To Relieve Joint Pain?
Feeling squeamish about being poked with needles? Unsure about the efficacy of acupuncture? Curious to find out how does acupuncture relieve pain in your own body? While acupuncture is a much safer alternative to using drugs, acupuncture isn’t for everyone. Using a traditional approach for treating pain, like acupuncture for arthritis, is a complex science and it can take time to relieve pain in the body. If you’re curious about whether it will work for you, do your research, ask friends who have gone to acupuncture sessions, and book a consult to ask more questions from a professional.
If you’re looking for an alternative way to treat arthritic pain, there are easy and simple ways to manage your pain. Taking a daily collagen supplement is an easy to use solution to keep your joints healthy. You don’t have to drive to the clinic, wait in line, or deal with the side effects. Plus, you may enjoy the benefits of collagen within weeks, instead of a much longer timeline.
Taking a collagen supplement is an easy way to boost the health of your joints and bones and protect and rebuild your joint cartilage. Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. Specific types of collagen are found in your joints and cartilage. SkinnyFit Super Youth contains the most vital types of collagen needed to keep your joints healthy. Each scoop contains 5 types of collagen: Types I, II, III, V, and X to help replenish the collagen production in your body. Why not give it a try and see if it helps?
Specifically, Type II collagen does wonders for your joint health by stimulating cartilage growth and reducing inflammation. As your cartilage becomes inflamed and the cushion around your joints doesn’t move as easily, arthritis can become painful. Taking a collagen supplement that includes all 5 types of collagen (especially Type II) will help your joints move smoothly and keep your cartilage healthy.
Type II collagen has been shown to reduce popping knees, support back, jaw, and joints, includes glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, and improves joint strength and elasticity.
Not all collagen is created equal and it’s important that when deciding on the best collagen supplement to take for joint health, you find one that is made with hydrolyzed collagen. Why? Hydrolyzed collagen is a process that breaks down the amino acids in collagen so that your body can digest the collagen quicker and easier.
Final Thoughts On Acupuncture For Arthritis
Now that we’ve taken an in-depth look at how acupuncture for arthritis and using collagen for arthritis can help you, it’s your turn to experiment with both approaches. And remember, 1 in 4 people struggle with arthritis. There are hundreds of forums, message boards, and online communities where you can ask questions, share success stories and maybe one day offer your helpful insight to another. I hope that you find the healing, pain relief, and community you deserve (which is only the best)!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Arthritis.
- Yang, J. W., Li, Q. Q., Li, F., Fu, Q. N., Zeng, X. H., & Liu, C. Z. (2014). The holistic effects of acupuncture treatment. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2014, 739708. doi:10.1155/2014/739708
- Bai, Y., Guo, Y., Wang, H., Chen, B., Wang, Z., Liu, Y., … & Li, Y. (2014). Efficacy of acupuncture on fibromyalgia syndrome: a meta-analysis. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 34(4), 381-391.
- García-Coronado, J. M., Martínez-Olvera, L., Elizondo-Omaña, R. E., Acosta-Olivo, C. A., Vilchez-Cavazos, F., Simental-Mendía, L. E., & Simental-Mendía, M. (2019). Effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. International orthopaedics, 43(3), 531-538.