Health Wellness

Investigating the efficacy of acupuncture for treating rheumatoid arthritis of the hand

In this study, European researchers objectively assessed the safety and efficacy of acupuncture treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Their findings were published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by pain, functional disability, poor quality of life (QoL), high socio-economic impact and high annual costs.
  • Although acupuncture is widely used, studies on its efficacy show severe methodological shortcomings, do not consider the functional diagnosis for the allocation of acupoints and show no difference between verum and control.
  • Acupoint allocation according to Chinese medicine functional diagnoses is extremely relevant to assess AC effectiveness in a patient group primarily defined by a “western” medicine diagnosis.
  • For their study, the researchers recruited 105 RA patients with a functional diagnosis of “Pivot syndrome” or “Turning Point syndrome.” They randomly assigned these patients to either (1) verum-AC (verum acupoints), (2) control-AC (sham acupoints—points outside of the conduits/meridians and of the extra-conduits), or (3) waiting list.
  • The Ac groups all experienced the same number, depth and stimulation of needles. The researchers assessed them before and five minutes after AC, with follow-ups over four weeks.
  • After AC treatment, group 1 experienced significant improvements in self-reported pain, pressure algometry, handgrip strength and arm strength.
  • Their health status and QoL also improved significantly, and the number of swollen and tender joints also significantly decreased.
  • Group 2 showed no significant changes, except in self-reported pain improvement. Meanwhile, group 3 showed an overall worsening.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that acupuncture treatments, especially when the right acupoints are chosen, are highly effective in reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Journal Reference:

Seca S, Patricio M, Kirch S, Franconi G, Cabrita AS, Greten HJ. EFFECTIVENESS OF ACUPUNCTURE ON PAIN, FUNCTIONAL DISABILITY, AND QUALITY OF LIFE IN RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS OF THE HAND: RESULTS OF A DOUBLE-BLIND RANDOMIZED CLINICAL TRIAL. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 18 January 2019;25(1):86–97. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2018.0297

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