A 2019 rheumatoid arthritis acupuncture research concluded that acupuncture was more effective for treating rheumatoid arthritis than pharmaceuticals. This study was conducted at Gansu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and published in the Chinese Journal of Information on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The study compared acupuncture to medication with 68 patients presenting with rheumatoid arthritis. Outcomes were measured using a visual analog scale (VAS) and oxidative stress markers.
Following treatment, the overall effectiveness recorded in the acupuncture group was 91.2%. Comparatively, the control group had a 76.5% effectiveness rate. Three months later, the acupuncture group was still experiencing more significant improvements with an effective 88.3% rate while the control group came in lower at 70.6%.
The patients in this rheumatoid arthritis acupuncture research study were recruited and randomly assigned to either an acupuncture or control group. 16 male and 18 female participants made up the acupuncture group. Their ages ranged from 41 to 70 years old, with an average age of 56 years and an average disease duration of 30.5 months.
The control group consisted of 18 males and 16 females, 42-69 years old with a mean age of 54 and a mean disease duration of 32.3. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups regarding gender, age, disease severity, or pain scores at the beginning of the study.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Measurement Tools
Researchers assessed the participants’ RA severity using the DAS-28 (Disease Activity Score 28). This assessment included examining global pain scores, tracking inflammatory markers, pain questionnaires, and medical imaging. Scores above 5.1 indicated that RA was active, scores below 3.2 indicated low disease activity, and scores below 2.6 suggested that RA was in remission.
Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostic criteria included the following. Patients in the study all had severe joint pain and stiffness in the morning, with little bend and stretchability. Secondary symptoms included heavy limbs, reduced joint mobility, numb skin and muscle, a white and greasy tongue coating, and a wiry pulse.
Participants ranged in age from 40–70 and had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis from between 5 and 80 months. They all had a DAS-28 score of >2.6.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Acupuncture Research
The acupuncture group received treatment at the following acupoints:
Also, patients received acupuncture to treat joints that were most painful to them, using the following guidance:
Elbows: Chize (LU5), Quchi (LI11), and Shousanli (LI10).
Wrists: Yangchi (TB4), Wangu (SI4), Yangxi (LI5), and Waiguan (TB5).
Knees: Yinlingquan (SP9), Yanglingquan (GB34), Heding (MLE27), Dubi (ST35), Xiyangguan (GB33), Liangqiu (ST34), and Xiyan (MNLE16).
Ankles: Jiexi (ST41), Kunlun (BL60), and Xuanzhong (GB39).
Acupuncturists applied stainless steel, single-use, filiform needles using standard procedures. Treatments lasted 30 minutes and were given once a day, five days a week, for four weeks.
The control group patients received prescription medication intervention with the following drugs and dosages:
Etoricoxib 60 mg daily, after food
Leflunomide 20 mg daily, after food
Methotrexate 5 mg twice weekly, after food
The administration of pharmaceuticals lasted a total of four weeks.
Outcomes and Discussion
Evaluators measured outcomes for this rheumatoid arthritis acupuncture research study after four weeks of treatment and a three-month follow-up. VAS measured effects for pain, serum GSH-Px, SOD, and MDA. Researchers also calculated total effective rates for each group.
Mean pretreatment VAS scores were 7.12 in the acupuncture group and 6.99 in the control group. Following treatment, these scores fell to 1.32 and 2.96, respectively. At the 3-month follow-up, they had risen to 2.97 and 3.98. While both groups experienced significant pain score improvements, improvements were significantly greater in the acupuncture group (p<0.05).
Mean pretreatment levels of MDA were 5.57 µmol/L in the acupuncture group and 5.66 µmol/L in the control group. Following treatment, these scores fell to 3.55 µmol/L and 3.94 µmol/L, respectively. They increased to 4.88 µmol/L and 4.29 µmol/L at the three-month follow-up. Although both groups experienced improvements across all biomarkers, improvements were significantly more significant in the acupuncture group (p<0.05).
Researchers calculated total effective rates for each group according to TCM syndrome scores. Patients with a ≥95% improvement in symptoms were categorized as recovered. Treatment was classified as markedly effective for patients with a 70–90% improvement in symptoms, effective for patients with a 30–70% improvement in symptoms, and ineffective for patients with a ≤30% improvement in symptoms. Recovered, markedly effective, and effective scores were added together to calculate the total effective rate.
There were 12 recovered, 13 markedly effective, six effective, and three ineffective acupuncture cases, giving a total effective rate of 31/34 (91.2%). There were eight recovered, seven markedly effective, 11 effective, and eight ineffective cases in the control group, giving a total effective rate of 26/34 (76.5%).
At the 3-month follow-up, there were nine recovered, 14 markedly effective, seven effective, and four ineffective cases in the acupuncture group with a total effective rate of 30/34 (88.3%). There were five recovered, eight markedly effective, 11 effective, and ten ineffective cases in the control group with a total effective rate of 30/34 24/34 (70.6%).
This rheumatoid arthritis acupuncture research indicates that acupuncture effectively relieves pain and improves biomarkers for rheumatoid arthritis patients and is more effective than conventional, pharmacological treatment.
This research study supports our own experience at Raleigh Acupuncture, where we have successfully been treating patients with rheumatoid arthritis for over 15 years. If you, or a loved one, are struggling with RA, try acupuncture. It will help improve the quality of your life.
1. Zhang Fengfan, Yuan Bo, Tian Liang, Wang Yixin, Qiao Xiang, Zhang Tingzhuo, Li Xinglan, Wang Jinhai, Tian Jiexiang, Du Xiaozheng (2019) “Clinical Efficacy of Hot Needling Acupuncture for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Its Effects on Oxidative Stress” Chinese Journal of Information on TCM Vol. 26 (2) pp. 26-30.
RA Acupuncture Research
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I’m an RA veteran, having been diagnosed over 20 years ago. So I know all about the treatments and what they can do. Somehow I had overlooked acupuncture. Maybe it was a bias against “alternative” medicine. In any case, my aunt pressured me into trying her acupuncturist. She goes for asthma treatments, but said that the acupuncture treatment for auto-immune disease was similar. My research was inconclusive, but I decided to give it a try. I knew it couldn’t make my condition worse.
To my surprise the acupuncture has substantially reduce my daily pain levels. My flares are less frequent and intense, and pain does not move as quickly from place to place. The doc at Raleigh Acupuncture said there was indeed a connection between RA and other auto-immune diseases in the way Chinese medicine approached treatment. They said that the acupuncture slows the auto-immune response. I can actually feel that happening inside my body.
So I’m taking less medications, having less pain, and am able to be more active. Acupuncture is now an important component of my wellness plan for RA. I’m very grateful to Raleigh Acupuncture for their continued help.
I am newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (six months ago). My pain was traveling from my hips to feet, with something hurting pretty much all the time. My doctor suggested I try acupuncture as part of my therapy. He had referred other patients to Raleigh Acupuncture and they reported success. I’m feeling much more optimistic since going there. Before the acupuncture, my pain was really bad. Since I’ve started acupuncture, my pain has decreased by half at least. The acupuncture doctor really understands what I’m going through.
The doctor at Raleigh Acupuncture was brilliant at reducing my pain from RA. My wrists and ankles were so bad I could not walk. After a series of treatments the pain is 90% better and I’m living my life like normal. If you’ve got RA, you MUST try acupuncture. I shared my story with my RA support group. They were all queasy about the idea of acupuncture. I told them they were crazy not to make an appointment with my acupuncture doctor. The treatment doesn’t even hurt. I wish I knew about this 5 years ago when I was first diagnosed!!