Find an acupuncturist...

Can acupuncture help with arthritis in the feet?

Q:  Is acupuncture  suitable to help with arthritis in the feet. Both of my feet suffer, one more than the other, to the point that they are so stiff I am unable to walk without a frame.


It will come as no surprise to hear that we have answered questions on this before. One typical answer was:

Would acupuncture be of any benefit to painful feet due to arthritis?

We have produced a fact sheet on osteoarthritis

and as you can see, research into the treatment of arthritis in the feet is not that common. There are many hundreds, if not thousands, of studies published in Chinese every year, but only a small percentage are translated, and we are sure that there has probably been research but we are unlikely to see it.

Although acupuncture has a reasonably good record for offering relief in cases of osteoarthritis, it would be fair to say that arthritis in the feet can be much more difficult to treat. The very tight 'fit' of the foot bones means that where osteoarthritis starts to develop it can be very difficult to overcome the constant rubbing and inflammation which this causes in order to break the cycle of pain - inflammation leads to pain leads to more inflammation and more pain, and so on.

However, one of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is that it looks at symptoms as a part of a much wider pattern of energy flow in the body, and can sometimes make sense of systemic conditions which manifest in specific areas. Treatment may involve not just the affected area, but also points elsewhere on the body which can begin to put right the underlying imbalances which are the true cause of the problems. 

Arthritis has been around as long as men have walked upright, and the ancient Chinese had their own ways of differentiating the various types based on the nature of the symptoms - better with heat or cold, movement or rest, etc etc. This has led to some well-established protocols which may offer some benefit.

However, each person is as unique and different as their symptoms, and in some cases the deterioration will have gone beyond the point where treatment will be of benefit other than as short term pain relief. The best advice we can give is that you visit a BAcC member local to you for an informal chat and brief face to face assessment of what they think might be possible. We are confident that they will give you an honest and realistic assessment of what they think acupuncture treatment might offer.

We do not think we can improve on this as an answer as far as acupuncture is concerned. What we should add, though, is that some of the more gentle manipulative therapies can often be very beneficial. Many BAcC members, for example, use tui na, a form of Chinese massage, and this can often generate a great deal more movement. However, we have also know patients to use traditional massage and often reflexology to great effect.

We still believe that it is worthwhile having a chat with a traditional acupuncturist first, though. If the stiffness in the feet is a consequence of a much more widespread systemic condition, as understood in Chinese medicine terms, where the tendons and ligaments are not being properly nourished, no amount of massage or manipulation is going to resolve the problem quickly until the deeper underlying pattern has been remedied.

Post a question

If you have any questions about acupuncture, browse our archive or ask an expert.

Ask an expert

BAcC Factsheets

Research based factsheets have been prepared for over 60 conditions especially for this website

Browse the facts