By Erin K. Blakeley, Knee1 Staff
Chronic pain sufferers will tell you: anything is worth a try if it means returning to a normal lifestyle. Perhaps no orthopedic condition causes so many Americans to suffer the pain and deviation from normal activity as osteoarthritis. A gradual weakening of the cartilage, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting the elderly in large numbers.
A new study of research collected from seven trials is leading researchers to believe that acupuncture, the age-old practice of needle therapy, may ease patients’ pain. The review team, led by Dr. Jeanette Ezzo of Project LEAD in Washington D.C., looked at seven studies involving over four hundred patients with knee arthritis. They found the results of the study indicate that acupuncture provides at least short-term relief from knee pain.
The theory behind acupuncture is fairly simple. According to Shen Nung, the father of Chinese medicine, the human body has an energy force that runs through it. The name of this force is Qi, pronounced “chee” and it encompasses the spiritual, mental, physical and emotional aspects of life. Shen Nung further postulated that the flow of Qi in the body influences a person’s health. If the flow is interrupted or unbalanced, it could cause illness.
Along with Qi, a prominent portion of this theory is the relationship of Yin and Yang. These two properties are opposite forces, which balance each other when they come together. Yin and Yang comprise Qi and provide that balance.
So where is a person’s Qi? Shen Nung described it as flowing through the body along channels called meridians. These meridians are symmetrical, and run vertically up and down the surface of the body. Acupuncture is a way to restore balance to a person’s body, by using needles to stimulate certain points of the skin where Meridians are close to the surface.
The concepts of Qi, Yin, and Yang, derive from Taoist philosophy of over four thousand years ago. Regardless of your belief system philosophically, one thing is certain: acupuncture seems to work for some people.
Acupuncturists use nine different types of needles of varying sizes, widths and shapes. The techniques are as varied as the ailments acupuncture is used to treat. Acupuncturists insert the needles at varying degrees relative to the skin surface, and manipulate the needles in a number of manners. Some of these manipulations may feel like a scraping, some more like a twirling rotation, other times, a raising and lifting of the needle. An acupuncturist chooses the angle of the needle and the technique based on the patient’s ailment.
Acupuncture may offer a glimmer of hope for patients who have suffered osteoarthritis and found little relief through other methods. This is not to say that patients should discontinue their medical routines and prescriptions from their doctor; quite the opposite. Once called alternative medicine, practices such as acupuncture are better known today as complimentary therapies. By using acupuncture to compliment their regular treatments, patients may find their best chances for pain relief.