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I have rheumatoid arthritis in both my knees. Would acupunture relieve pain and discomfort?

A :As you may have seen from this answer about a similar rheumatoid arthritis problem which we posted some time ago:

As you can see from our factsheet for one auto-immune disorder affecting the joints, rheumatoid arthritis

the evidence for the use of acpuncture treatment is equivocal. The gold standard for evidence, the ramdomised double blind
control trial, it has to be said, is not the best method for assessing acupuncture, and there is a great deal of slightly lower grade evidence from China which is encouraging.

However, acupuncture as a system of medicine is premised on an entirely different understanding of the
human physiology as a flow of energy, called 'qi' whose flow and balance is crucial to good health. Qi is also said to make up all of nature, and so interactions between man and his world would and could have a direct bearing on health.

The best course of action with problems such as these, however, is to visit a BAcC member local to you for advice. Most
are more than willing to give up some time without charge to give someone a better assessment face to face of whether acupuncture treatment is a  good bet, and most are always willing to refer on to other forms of
treatment if they think something else would be better for the patient.

we tend to be a little cautious in our responses about RA. In our experience this can sometimes be intractable to treatment, and we do not want to excite expectation which cannot be fulfilled.

However, there is a long history of acupuncture being used for chronic pain, as another factsheet shows:

and when acupuncture first started to become popularised in the West after Nixon's visit to China in the 1970s, it was the mechanisms of pain which became the focus of a great deal of the research. This was largely because the outcome measures were very clear. What we tend to say to people who look for pain relief from acupuncture is that in absence of a reversal of their main condition, the equation is really one of how much relief the treatment gives, and how sustainable the change is, set against the cost of the treatment. If the equation works, i.e. it remains cost effective to have long term treatment because the freedoms conferred allow a better quality of life, all well and good. If the change is short lived, however, then it may not be such a good option unless there are specific circumstances where being pain free even for a short time would be ideal.

Our usual response when working with conditions like RA, and one which is in keeping with the tradition to which we are heirs, is to set aside the western disease labels and to examine what is happening from a Chinese medicine perspective. This can often produce far greater clarity ofintent than working with a disease label which in itself carries associations of chronic degeneration.

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