Acupuncture & Arthritis
Q: I've heard a lot about acupuncture lately- can it help with arthritis pain?
Dr. Donnica: Interest in acupuncture is growing among people with arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. The FDA estimates that Americans with these conditions spend up to half a billion dollars per year on acupuncture treatments. Several studies demonstrate its effectiveness and it may be recommended by medical professionals to supplement or complement conventional medical treatment. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. It aims to restore balance to what the Chinese call "qi" (pronounced "chee") or "vital energy" and supporters believe that illness results from imbalances in qi.
According to "Arthritis Today", a publication of the Arthritis Foundation, people considering acupuncture should follow these guidelines:
1. Discuss your decision to try acupuncture with your doctor. Acupuncture shouldn't take the place of medical intervention. Keep your doctor informed of any changes in your condition if you decide to undergo acupuncture treatments.
2. Check the acupuncturist's credentials. Many states don't require physicians to have any specialized training to perform acupuncture. To find a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy in your area who has completed at least 200 hours of training, call the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture at 800/521-2262.
3. Insist that your acupuncturist use disposable needles. Reusable needles can cause infection. A few rare cases of hepatitis transmission have been linked to improperly sterilized acupuncture needles.
4. Be aware of the cost, especially if your insurance company does not cover the procedure. Non-physician acupuncturists charge anywhere from $40 to $100 for a first visit and $30 to $70 for each follow-up visit. Physicians charge at least $20 more.
5. For a free brochure about managing your pain, contact the Arthritis Foundation.
6. Keep track of your symptoms. If the procedures seem to help you, great; if they don't, discuss this frankly with your acupuncturist and your physician and consider reevaluating this course of therapy.
Created: 9/21/2000  - Donnica Moore, M.D.