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Acupuncture for Rheumatoid Arthritis

For treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, acupuncture is often our primary treatment approach. Acupuncture is a safe, effective, and generally painless therapy which can often be highly effective in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other types of pain, such as back pain, neck pain, sciatica, and some types of injuries such as sprains.

In our clinic we have seen very good results with acupuncture treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, with no side-effects. We cannot speak to the success rates of acupuncture in general, only the results at our clinic. Acupuncture is a very broad, deep, and complex field of study. In general, even a very talented practitioner will need at least 7-10 years of full-time study to develop a high level of skill.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Modern research has shown that acupuncture can help the body to release its own naturally occurring pain-relief chemicals, called endogenous endorphins or endogenous opioids. Acupuncture also helps the body to reduce certain chemicals involved in inflammation. According to traditional acupuncture theories, pain can be caused by a blockage in the body's vital energy. Acupuncture provides relief from pain by clearing blockages and promoting the smooth flow of this energy.

The effects of acupuncture on endorphins and anti-inflammatory chemicals help to explain the immediate pain-relief that people experience. However, these effects are not enough to fully explain the long-term benefits that patients often receive from acupuncture treatment. Many scientific questions still remain about the way acupuncture works.

Our patients with rheumatoid arthritis have often experienced relief for a month or longer between sessions. Compared to other conditions that acupuncturists treat, rheumatoid arthritis treatment requires more frequent visits initially, in order to achieve the best results. In general we recommend treatment on a weekly frequency for the first 6 weeks.

Of course, each individual's case is different, and some cases require more or less frequent sessions over a longer period of time. Within a month or two of weekly sessions, it should be very clear to you whether our treatments are helpful for your condition.
"Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition which I have seen somewhat frequently in practice. I always recommend that my patients follow the directions of their rheumatologist because the medications can be quite important to slow the progression of the disease. For individuals who want to add another treatment approach, I believe acupuncture, nutrition, or mind-body approaches are worth trying. To the extent that these approaches are helpful, this is likely due to their ability to help the body to regulate the inflammatory signals of the immune system."

Dr. Eric Windsor, D.Ac.

You are more likely to get the best results from acupuncture by visiting a practitioner who has many years of experience treating your condition with acupuncture. In our practice, we have been able to help around 80% of our patients with rheumatoid arthritis to experience a significant reduction in their frequency and severity of their symptoms.

Rheumatoid arthritis is normally diagnosed by a rheumatologist, who often will also order blood tests and prescribe medications. A 2010 survey by the Mayo Clinic indicated that 54% of rheumatologists would recommend acupuncture as an additional support for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

How Does Acupuncture Compare with Alternative Medical Treatments?

Alternatives to acupuncture treatment include a range of medications which are often prescribed by a rheumatologist. Our clinic has provided acupuncture treatment to many patients who use both acupuncture and medications. Many patients find that a combined treatment approach offers the best results.

Patients should be informed about these possible side-effects, and should be an active participant in their own healthcare. You must be able to tell your doctor what medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter) and what supplements you are taking (including vitamins, herbs, minerals, etc.). The medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis can have much more serious side-effects when they interact with other medications or supplements (both prescription and over-the-counter).

Rheumatologists prescribe these medications (below) when they believe that the benefit to the patient outweighs the risk of side-effects. Patients should feel comfortable asking their doctor about the possible risks and benefits of these treatments. If you are concerned about side-effects, it is appropriate for you to ask about treatments with a lower risk of side-effects. A good rheumatologist will listen to your concerns and offer suggestions.

We offer specialized acupuncture treatments which can safely reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis without side-effects.

This section may need to be updated to include new treatment options.

The medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes have very serious side-effects. The risk of side-effects increases with a patient's age, pre-existing health conditions, and the number of medications they are taking. These side-effects can occasionally include extreme fatigue, liver damage, kidney damage, skin rashes, severe diarrhea, blood in the urine and stool, vomiting blood, and yeast infections. The risk of skin cancer is increased in people who have had a high level of exposure to ultraviolet light (such as in treatment for psoriasis).

Medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis include auranofin (Ridaura), azathioprine (Imuran), cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral), gold sodium thomalate (Myochristine), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), leflunomide (Arava), methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), tofacitinib (Xeljans), abatacept (Orencia), adalimumab (Humira), anakinra (Kineret), etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade), rituximab (Rituxan), golimumab (Simponi), certolizumab pegol (Cimzia), and tocilizumab (Actemra).

The most serious side effects which these medications have caused include severe infections and cancers (skin cancer and lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system). Sometimes these cancers go away when treatment is stopped but other times chemotherapy is required to treat it. One type of cancer, hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma, can be rapidly fatal. This cancer has occurred in people taking methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis. These medications suppress the body's immune system, and some people have had life-threatening or fatal infections from viruses, bacteria or fungi while taking these medications.

Maryland Holistics has experience providing natural treatments which can help you feel better, and our treatments will not interfere with your other treatments.

Steroid medications such as prednisone and betamethasone may also be used. These can help decrease the swelling and allow the tissue to heal. Frequent use of corticosteroids can cause significant short-term and long-term side effects, such as bone loss, skin atrophy, tendon rupture, weight gain, acne, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar in diabetics, and reduced ability to fight infections. Frequent use of cortisone can cause cataracts and in some cases, even the death of bone tissue in the large joints (avascular necrosis).

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also be used in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. These are over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. In many cases of rheumatoid arthritis, NSAIDs cannot fully control the pain level. Most people can take NSAIDs without side-effects for under a week, but significant side-effects are increasingly likely if they are taken daily at high doses for more than a week at a time.

Side effects of NSAIDs can include stomach bleeding, allergic reactions, kidney problems, high blood pressure, strokes, and heart problems. Among people taking NSAIDS for more than 2 months, 1 person in 1200 has a side-effect from NSAIDs causing death. Every year over 100,000 people are hospitalized in the United States due to the side effects of NSAIDs, and 16,500 deaths are caused by NSAIDs in the United States.

In the hands of an experienced practitioner, acupuncture can offer significant benefit in many of cases of rheumatoid arthritis, without any of the side effects of these medications. Many of our patients have had a significant reduction in symptoms after receiving between 6-12 treatments. Over time, acupuncture usually helps best when treatments are scheduled on a preventative routine schedule, such as weekly, every other week, or monthly.

Acupuncture helps the body to feel well-rested and relaxed. Acupuncture has also been shown to improve blood sugar control, and reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. Most health insurance companies recognize the value of acupuncture for pain-relief of rheumatoid arthritis, many insurance plans will cover acupuncture for this purpose. Our practice is a preferred provider with CareFirst Blue Cross and United Healthcare.

Our patients include marathon runners, dancers, physicians, teachers, triathlon athletes, and people of all ages with minor or major aches and pains. The most common pain-related conditions we treat are lower back pain, arthritis, sciatica (back and leg pain), knee pain, shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, headaches / migraines, PMS symptoms, neck pain, and heel / foot pain.

You May be Interested In:

Contact Our Office
Conditions A-Z (list and web links)
Pain Relief
About Acupuncture
Before Your Visit
Information for Physicians
About Dr. Eric Windsor
Biochemical Research on Acupuncture
How We Work with Lab Tests and Imaging

About Maryland Holistics

Maryland Holistics LLC is the private practice of Dr. Eric Windsor, D.Ac., L.Ac. Our serene, professional office is located in Ellicott City, MD. Maryland Holistics has provided care to thousands of satisfied customers since opening in 2009. Dr. Windsor is a preferred provider in the CareFirst, Blue Cross Blue Shield, GEHA, and United Healthcare networks.

3525 Ellicott Mills Dr., Ste E
Ellicott City, MD 21043
Phone: 301-588-5858
Fax: 443-308-5690