If it takes a little time and gentle movement to limber up stiff knees, hips, or spine in the morning, you may be among the more than half of people over the age of 65 who have some level of joint pain. Osteoarthritis of the joints can be caused by a combination of factors including injury, wear and tear, heredity, improper alignment, and excess weight. But there are treatment plans that can help manage pain and improve function – including acupuncture, exercise, weight control, rest, and joint care.
According to a recent Optimal Aging Portal Blog post, acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body. The practice is most frequently used to treat pain and may be helpful as a complementary therapy alongside traditional Western medical approaches to pain relief treatment.
In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is believed to help balance the flow of energy through pathways in the body. Some Western practitioners believe that acupuncture points stimulate specific nerves, muscles, and connective tissue, triggering the body’s natural pain killers. By using a combination of medication, physiotherapy, education, and perhaps acupuncture, chronic joint pain can be better managed.
The risk of acupuncture is low, but it’s important to check the acupuncturist is properly trained and certified and applies only single-use, disposable needles to minimize the risk for infection. People with blood disorders or who take blood thinners should talk with their doctor before considering acupuncture therapy. Electroacupuncture can also cause interference with a pacemaker.
A number of studies have found that acupuncture works well to help manage chronic pain such as back and neck pain, and osteoarthritis of the knee. Research suggests that acupuncture may stimulate the release of serotonin in the brain, offering relief from chronic pain and may also help to improve physical function. More controlled trials are needed to give a full picture of the benefits of acupuncture.
Learn more about managing osteoarthritis of the hip and knee to reduce pain and improve function by following this link to a 15-minute Mobility and Optimal Aging Interactive Lesson.