In 2005, 66 million (nearly 1 in 3 adults) -- 42.7 million have doctor-diagnosed arthritis and 23.2 million people live with chronic joint symptoms, but have not been diagnosed by a doctor. Arthritis is one of the most prevalent chronic health problems and the nation's leading cause of disability among Americans over age 15; Arthritis is second only to heart disease as a cause of work disability. Arthritis limits everyday activities such as walking, dressing and bathing for more than 7 million Americans. Costs to the U.S. economy totals more than $86.2 billion annually. More than half those affected are under age 65. Arthritis strikes women more often than men. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that is caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a "cushion" between the bones of the joints. Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative arthritis. Among the over 100 different types of arthritis conditions, osteoarthritis is the most common, affecting over 20 million people in the United States.
Primary osteoarthritis is mostly related to aging. With aging, the water content of the cartilage increases and the protein makeup of cartilage degenerates. Repetitive use of the joints over the years irritates and inflames the cartilage, causing joint pain and swelling. Eventually, cartilage begins to degenerate by flaking or forming tiny crevasses. In advanced cases, there is a total loss of the cartilage cushion between the bones of the joints. Loss of cartilage cushion causes friction between the bones, leading to pain and limitation of joint mobility. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate new bone outgrowths to form around the joints. Osteoarthritis occasionally can be found in multiple members of the same family, implying an heredity basis for this condition. Secondary osteoarthritis is caused by another disease or condition. Conditions that can lead to secondary osteoarthritis include obesity, repeated trauma or surgery to the joint structures, abnormal joints at birth, gout, diabetes, and other hormone disorders.
Have you ever wondered about treating the pain, swelling and stiffness of arthritis with acupuncture? Even the reaction to weather changes, which was known in the old days as "rheumatism", can be reduced with properly applied acupuncture and moxibustion in accordance with Oriental theory. Traumatic arthritis can sometimes be helped very well when the treatment is begun very soon after the injury occurs. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are effective and present a much more favorable risk to benefit relationship than surgery, steroids or NSAIDs to treat arthritis. Even for patients who eventually need a joint replacement, acupuncture and Chinese herbs before and after the surgery can aid in pain relief, speed of rehabilitation, and to correct complications of surgery. Symptoms associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia, such as problems sleeping, fatigue, and depression, can also respond to skillfully applied acupuncture.
Acupuncture therapy and traditional medicine prepared from different herbs and roots are individualized to each patient presentation whether the diagnosis is osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of arthritis. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs may in some situations improve the response to Western drugs at lower dosages, as well as to address the side effects commonly seen with pharmaceutical drugs. Treating osteoarthritis with acupuncture should be seen as a long term process, especially if the condition has been present for many years. Time will prove that traditional methods of treatment like acupuncture help to reduce the suffering of conditions like arthritis at a reasonable cost and with a minimum of risk and side effects. Recently NIH supported study showed that acupuncture provide significant improvement in function and pain relief in 570 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee received 23 acupuncture sessions over 26 weeks.