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On Pins and Needles to Relieve Joint Pain

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acupuncture needlesIf poking needles under your skin doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend the afternoon, consider this story from a woman suffering from arthritis: “I’m in my early 50's. My knees, ankles, wrists and hands ache all the time. After my physician told me I "just have to learn to live with arthritis", I decided to try acupuncture. I didn't notice much difference at first but by the third treatment I was amazed at my improvement. The pain and stiffness in my knees completely disappeared. Over the next treatments, my ankles and wrists significantly improved as well. At this point, I am not taking any pain medications and I am mostly pain-free.” When arthritis pain keeps you from doing what you love, it may be time to think “inside the box” – the box of acupuncture needles! Read on to find out how getting stuck with needles just might be the ticket to pain relief! What is Acupuncture? Portrait Of A Cheerful Woman In Acupuncture TherapyAcupuncture is a 2,000 year old Chinese practice that is finally becoming mainstream. In this ancient form of medicine, needles are inserted into the skin at specific points on the body to achieve a therapeutic effect. The needles create the beneficial effects on their own, and there are no drugs involved. This makes acupuncture a safe and effective alternative to medication. It encourages natural healing, improves mood and energy, and reduces or relieves pain. How does acupuncture work? Sixteenth century Chinese doctors believed that an essential life energy called Qi (pronounced “chee”) flows through the body along 20 invisible channels called meridians. When this energy flow is blocked or out of balance, illness or pain occurs. The concept of acupuncture is that a network of more than 2,000 acupuncture points are mapped along the meridians. Stimulating those points with needles corrects the energy flow and alleviates pain. How does acupuncture relieve joint and arthritis pain? Chinese doctor performing acupuncture on a patients handPain is a primary complaint of people who suffer from arthritis, so acupuncture is worth considering because it relieves pain in three ways. 1. It works through the nervous system by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Brian Berman, MD, director of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine writes, on the “Arthritis Today” website: “A well-placed needle insertion sets off a cascade of events, producing a signal that travels along the spinal cord to the brain, triggering a release of neurotransmitters called endorphins which scientists believe reduce the sensation of pain.” 2. Acupuncture deactivates trigger points. Trigger points are tender areas that develop in the muscles and joints. They are often responsible for chronic pain and are frequently found around arthritic joints. 3. Acupuncture helps your body and mind relax. Since stress is a major contributor to illness and can intensify pain, helping your mind and body relax can promote healing. Does acupuncture help other symptoms of arthritis? With rheumatoid arthritis, you have inflammation around the joints, such as swelling, redness, and heat. Acupuncture stimulates the adrenal glands to produce natural steroids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect. With osteoarthritis, (OA) the most common form of arthritis, cartilage in the joints  gradual wears away, and research shows that acupuncture is extremely effective at controlling the pain that often accompanies this deterioration. A study of 570 people with osteoarthritis of the knee found that those who received acupuncture had a significant decrease in pain compared with those who received fake acupuncture or standard care. That study was published in the Dec. 21 “Annals of Internal Medicine” and reported in USA Today in 2008. From the website: In a German study, 304,674 people with knee OA who received 15 sessions of acupuncture combined with their usual medical care had less pain and stiffness, improved function and better quality of life than their counterparts who had routine care alone. The improvements occurred immediately after completing a three-month course of acupuncture and lasted for at least another three months, indicating OA is among conditions treated with acupuncture. What does acupuncture feel like? Happy relaxed woman acupuncture patient receiving a therapy treaIn an acupuncture session, stainless steel, flexible needles are inserted into selected “acupuncture points”. The needles are very sharp and extremely fine, about the thickness of a human hair, making the needling process essentially pain-free. Some people feel a small prick as the needle passes through the skin, and others feel a dull ache or twitch, but most people don’t feel anything. Once the needles are in, you may experience some heaviness, tingling, or a dull ache for a few moments. Many people feel so relaxed that they fall asleep during the session. Sometimes people feel a sensation of energy spreading and moving around the needle. The needles stay in for 15-30 minutes, and the practitioner may twist or rotate the needles to strengthen the flow of Qi. The amount of time for each session, and the number of sessions one needs varies from person to person, but many people report marked pain relief after the third session. It’s also common to feel relaxed yet very upbeat and energized afterwards– almost euphoric, which is a result of the release of natural endorphins. If you are worried about safety, rest assured that most western practitioners use single-use disposable needles, so there is no danger of transmitting diseases. Where can you find a practitioner? To find a certified acupuncturist, try these Web sites:

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