Do you ever wake up stiff and sore and groan as you get out of bed? Or struggle to get up off the couch after sitting for a while? It could be that you worked out a bit too hard at the gym yesterday, or it could be the early signs of osteoarthritis.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is the gradual deterioration of joints from wear and tear with joint pain and mobility issues. Affected are the movable joints in the body such as the knee, spine, hip, hand and foot joints. These joints we use most often when we are active and therefore take on a good deal of force in everyday life. The cartilage within the joint starts to break down, and the related bone begins to deteriorate.
Who suffers from osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis can affect anyone, but women are more likely to develop this debilitating condition. Age is also a factor, as are genetics. If you have a parent who developed osteoarthritis, you are more likely to suffer from this condition. As it is related to wear and tear, being overweight can also contribute. Joint injuries and certain sports or occupations may stress the joints more, leading to the deterioration of those joints.
What are the symptoms?
Joint pain and stiffness can be signs of osteoarthritis. It can be most noticeable when waking in the morning or after being inactive for a while. Also, cold temperatures can aggravate the symptoms. There may also be tenderness around the affected joint, a grating sensation when you use the joint, swelling caused by inflammation in the soft tissue around the joint and a loss of flexibility.
How is it diagnosed?
Medical imaging, such as an x-ray, can confirm the diagnosis. An MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) is sometimes needed to provide more information. Joint fluid analysis might also be undertaken to test for inflammation and rule out other causes of pain, such as gout or an infection.
Treatment in Western and Eastern medicine
The go-to in Western medicine is the prescription of anti-inflammatories and painkillers combined with physiotherapeutic intervention. Sometimes cortisone injections relieve pain in the affected joint. However, repeated application of this method can worsen joint damage over time.
In severe cases, joint replacement surgery is an option whereby the damaged joint surfaces are removed and replaced with plastic and metal parts. Surgical risks include infections and blood clots. Artificial joints can wear out or come loose and might eventually need replacement.
We cannot reverse osteoarthritis, but treatments can help reduce the pain and help with movement.
What about Eastern medicine? Acupuncture has long been used for pain management, reduction of inflammation and mobility improvement. It works on the meridians (energy pathways) of the affected joints. In East Asian medicine, pain is considered a blockage of Qi (energy) in the body. Applying acupuncture needles in certain spots and points on the body will help remove the energy blockage and support the proper flow of Qi in the affected meridian. By re-establishing the energy flow, the pain diminishes.
According to a research article published in 2020 in the International Journal of Recent Scientific Research, many types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, can be successfully treated with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This article mentions acupuncture as an effective treatment method for osteoarthritis, with patients experiencing a successful reduction of the pain, swelling, redness and stiffness in the affected joints and improvement in the movement and the stability of the joints.
According to the authors, acupuncture can give immediate relief to pain. During the acupuncture treatment, the brain releases endorphins (neurotransmitters, which have the same effect on pain as some strong medications like codeine or morphine. All 30 patients with osteoarthritis in this study improved with acupuncture treatments. The common symptoms of pain, swelling, redness and stiffness in the joints were alleviated, and greater mobility and stability in the joints were achieved (1).
Regular gentle exercises you do on your own, such as swimming or walking, or Qi Gong, are highly recommended. An occupational therapist can help you discover ways to do everyday tasks without putting extra stress on your already painful joint.
How can Ondol Clinic help?
At Ondol Clinic, with our experienced and professional team of East Asian Medicine practitioners, we consider the functioning of the whole body, including the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. Structural balance is essential for the body’s optimal function. Our gentle Japanese acupuncture, combined with moxibustion, assists in managing pain, particularly muscular skeletal pain (e.g. back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain).
Ondol Clinic also offers massage, Chinese Herbal treatments, and dietetics, which assist in achieving a healthy and balanced body. If you would like to book an appointment with one of our practitioners here at Ondol Clinic or have a chat about how we can assist, please click here or give us a call on (07) 3371 0100.
Acupuncture Treatment in Osteoarthritis, International Journal of Recent Scientific Research Vol. 11, Issue, 02 (D), pp. 37471-37472, February 2020.