Oct 2, 2021

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a a systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease. RA affects 2% of the population and is 3x more likely to occur in women than it is in men. RA remains idiopathic, or having no known cause, although it is expected that there is some genetic predisposition. The Pathology of RA can be understood as an overreactive immune response to a pathogen or immunological trigger.

Generally RA is categorized by joint pain and stiffness, concentrated in the fingers and toes, but could be present in nearly all joints ranging from the neck to the knees. The symptoms also include severe fatigue, weakness and a lowered appetite. All of these symptoms can be attributed to overall inflammation in the body, in which nodules can be present as well as weight gain.

The main goal in treating RA from both a Western and eastern perspective is to relive pain and joint stiffness, reduce systemic inflammation and slow the bodies attack response to immunological triggers. Physical rest can help ease inflammation and pain but is not practical for everyone’s lifestyle. A number of medications could be prescribed for those suffering from RA, if the disease hasn’t progressed and is in its early stages its possible to manage with simple NSAIDs. A specific drug class, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARDs)- this includes drugs like hydroxychloroquine and methotrexate. These drugs can be slow acting and take up to four months to show improvements, not only that but they can be toxic to the body and require close monitoring for dangerous side effects.

Because the cause of RA symptoms is largely an inflammatory response, Acupuncture can be incredibly effective in the treatment of those with RA. Acupuncture is able to reduce swelling all over the body by stimulating the release of chemicals that produce an anti-inflammatory response and regulate the immune reactions of the body.

A patient of ours came to East to West Wellness Center with severe body aches and fatigue due to RA with swelling and pain in the joints of the fingers and toes with early formations of nodules. With weekly acupuncture, moxibustion, and adopting an auto-immune paleo diet (with expected cheat meals but an emphasis on juicing and eating plenty of greens)

this patient was able to significantly improve her energy levels, visibly decrease swelling, and decrease in intensity of joint pain just after 4 sessions. This patient has felt an increased quality of life and has noticed that her body is able to self regulate and ‘bounce back’ from overreactive immune responses quicker.

Anna Craddock, Student of Acupuncture

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