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Acupuncture & Alternatives for Arthritis

There are 3 different types of arthritis that affect people in general. 1) Rheumatoid Arthritis, 2) Osteoarthritis, and 3) Gout Arthritis. All three of them affect the joints and result in pain. For this article, we will focus on the first two types of arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is seen as an autoimmune condition where the body’s natural immune system attacks itself and results in inflammation of multiple joints causing tenderness in joints with joint capsule thickening. It is usually symmetrical affecting the fingers, feet, wrists, elbows, and ankles typically, with stiffness occurring after prolonged inactivity. A person may also complain of fatigue, low-grade fever, weakness and weight loss. There is an established criteria for the diagnosis of RA and it is important to see your primary health care provider for accurate diagnoses based on personal history intake, physical exam and lab values (e.g. Rheumatoid factor, ANA titers, EBV antibodies, WBC, X-rays; Fe deficient anemia is also a common finding).

Possible underlying factors that may be attributed to the autoimmune reaction of the body include: genetic factors, food sensitivities, heavy metal toxicity, high fat diet, imbalance of gut bacteria (dysbiosis), abnormal bowel permeability (“leaky gut”), and possibly decreased DHEA levels in women aged 45-65. SLE (systemic lupus erythematosis) is also an autoimmune condition that sometimes occurs in overlap with rheumatoid arthritis. It is important to rule out this overlap of conditions through your primary health care physician.

Treating RA

In treating Rheumatoid Arthritis, it is very important to address the diet by reducing saturated fats and changing to a diet that is more whole and nutrient dense while eliminating food sensitivities/allergens that may be aggravating the condition. The key is to reduce arachadonic acid in the body’s inflammatory pathway using diet and certain nutrient supplements. Essential fatty acids (e.g. linoleic and linolenic acids) and antioxidants help to reduce RA and the inflammatory process. Something to consider is digestion and stomach acid levels. It is possible that someone may have reduced hydrochloric acid output from their stomach when eating which would result in improper breakdown and digestion of the foods. These food particles then enter the bloodstream as ‘foreign particles’ and signal the body to react and mount an inflammatory response. Other nutrients to consider are dietary antioxidants, selenium, vitamin E, zinc/copper, vitamin C, pantothenic acid and niacin. There are also a number of botanical medicines that have been found of benefit in reducing the inflammation of RA. Any regime of nutrients, botanicals and treatments should be given under the supervision of your Naturopathic Doctor to ensure proper dosages, frequency, safety and efficacy.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease associated with the wear and tear of joints. With OA there is tenderness and ‘crackling’ of the joints that eventually leads to a decreased ability to move the joints in a full range of motion. Overall, there is loss of cartilage with joint space narrowing. Bone spurs arise and nodes may appear in joint spaces. X-rays are typically used to aid in diagnosis. Possible underlying factors in OA include nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, and HCL deficiency.

Treating OA

For OA, there are various possibilities in natural treatments. Addressing nutrient deficiencies such as vitamins A, C and E along with other factors may be necessary. Dietary changes have also shown to improve symptoms. A good source of Glucosamine sulfate in combination with other botanical herbs in a formula may help to promote synthesis of cartilage and provide anti-arthritic effects.

Acupuncture for RA and OA

Acupuncture may also be used in the treatment of arthritis. Acupuncture is a treatment modality that consists of using very small, thin needles that are inserted into points along meridians (‘organ channels’) of the body. This system of medicine is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has been practiced in China for over 5000 years. Acupuncture is used to treat a wide variety of conditions and has been shown to be effective in treating musculoskeletal (muscle and joint) conditions while providing pain relief.

Naturopathic Doctors are trained and licensed to practice acupuncture in Ontario and this treatment option is available as part of a complete Naturopathic protocol for any of the arthritic conditions.

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Charlene Chan B.Sc, ND
Naturopathic Doctor
Mississauga Wellness
905.607.0700