The term "arthritis" means "inflammation of the joints" and usually involves pain, stiffness, and limitation of function "Rheumatism" is another name for it. Although arthritis occurs in a number of different forms, there are essentially two major types. These are (a) inflammatory, which may be exudative, proliferative or a combination of both and (b) degenerative, which may result from injury, malnutrition and limited capacity of the articular cartilaginous surface to repair itself. The first group includes the types of arthritis associated with infective agents, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and connective tissue disorders. The second group comprises degenerative joint diseases, such as osteoarthritis and hypertrophic arthritis.
Gout is a form of arthritis characterized by increased blood uric acid and is basically a metabolic disorder. In cases of persistent gouty arthritis regardless of medication to reduce blood uric acid, acupuncture may relieve the unpleasant symptoms. Most types of arthritis tend to be relentlessly progressive with increasing joint destruction, pain, and limitation of motion. Until the disease becomes severe, many people relieve their symptoms with non-prescription drugs containing aspirin (Acetylsalicylic acid). Unfortunately, this tends to cause stomach ulcers and a generalized bleeding tendency. Phenylbutazone and indomethacin prescribed by physicians may also give temporary relief, but their use is associated with a large number of toxic side effects, sometimes fatal. For arthritis not responsive to the above drugs, some physicians give gold salts, antimalarial agents, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressive therapy with cytoxan and imuran, but the high toxicity of these drugs outweighs their temporary advantages. Megavitamin therapy with especially high doses of Vitamin C and Pantothenate is helpful in reducing arthritis symptoms and the bleeding induced by many antiarthritis drugs. These vitamins help restore the function of adrenal glands suppressed by cortisone and its derivatives. They should be instituted promptly and continued after acupuncture. Corticoid drugs must be reduced slowly to avoid serious withdrawal symptoms, but most other antiarthritis drugs can be discontinued as soon as pain is relieved by acupuncture.
The Washington Acupuncture Center has treated thousands of patients for various forms of arthritis and more than 85% of them have had significant improvement. Most patients have their pain, swelling and stiffness significantly relieved by the time they have had 6 - 10 acupuncture treatments. Some of them have remained free from these symptoms for years after their first course of treatments. Others have had a recurrence of pain after six months but had it relieved again after another course of treatment. Some people with severe rheumatoid arthritis have been able to stay almost symptom free by having maintenance treatments once a week or less often. They have been able to discontinue the corticoids, phenylbutazone, gold salts and other dangerous drugs they had been taking and have a normal life. Acupuncture will of course not change bony deformities, but it is remarkable how well a person can function in spite of these if he is free from pain and stiffness.