Arthritis can be caused by several factors. Most common causes are obesity, excessive exercise, occupation, microbial activity, high cholesterol and genetic factors.
Medications like pain killers (analgesics) are given to reduce pain which has a list of side effects. This makes the people search for alternative treatments with minimal side effects and harm.
What is Electroacupuncture?
Electroacupuncture is a process of pulsating electric currents to specialized needles for stimulating acupoints. This technique was developed in China. It is nothing but an extension of traditional hand manipulation acupuncture technique.
The advantage of using electric acupuncture technique over traditional is that it prolongs stimulation without tissue damaged and can be controlled and monitored easily.
The severity of disease, type of disease, gender, and age of the person govern the intensity and duration of the current.
According to Chinese literature, electro acupuncture can improve medical conditions.
It is believed that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system which causes to release neurochemicals molecules which can cause biochemical changes.
There are around 2000 mapped points. Acupuncture in Chinese is known as Qi(pronounced chee)
6 Surprising Benefits of Electroacupuncture in arthritis
Science has discovered different ways by which electroacupuncture can benefit in arthritis.
1. It reduces inflammation in arthritis
A Chinese study compared the effectiveness of traditional and electroacupuncture in 2011. It was found that both the acupuncture techniques lowered the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α).
These two factors are involved in causing chronic inflammation. It was found that lowering in VEGF was more significant in electroacupuncture group as compared with traditional.
A pilot study was done to assess the efficacy of electroacupuncture in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It was found that acupuncture is a safe method but no clear anti-inflammatory effect is evident. It was found to be similar to a sham procedure.
Another study was done by seeing such an equipoise which combined the data of 10 studies. Out of these 9 studies showed that electroacupuncture can significantly reduce pain, stiffness and increased functionality.
The mechanism of stimulation of inflammatory factors is yet to be disclosed.
What does this mean?
This means that electroacupuncture can control the inflammatory factors which cause inflammation in joints.
2. Electroacupuncture reduces pain
A study was done on fibromyalgia patients to assess the pathway of acupuncture to relieve pain.
It was found that acupuncture modifies the brain chemistry and stimulate the brain to release endorphins (opioids neuropeptides) and neuropeptide Y which reduce serotonin levels.
It changes the processing of pain in the brain by releasing neuro-humoral factors which in turn decreases the pain.
Another research study describes the efficacy of meloxicam (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) and Electroacupuncture in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. It was found that electroacupuncture exposed group was better than meloxicam exposed group in terms of pain and effectiveness of treatment.
A study with 193 subjects also tried to assess the efficacy of electroacupuncture with diclofenac and placebo on the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. In this study, electroacpuncture was observed to be more effective than diclofenac and placebo.
An exploratory analysis was also performed to assess the efficacy of the combination of diclofenac and electro-acupuncture with electroacupuncture. The combination proved to be as effective as electroacupuncture.
What does this mean?
This means that electroacupuncture has the capability to release neurotransmitters and modify the pain centers and decrease the level of pain suffered in arthritis.
3. It improves muscle stiffness in arthritis
It has been found that stiffness in joints can be improved by circulation of the blood through that stiffened region. An animal study confirms that stiffness in joints can be relieved by using acupuncture.
Acupuncture can increase the blood flow which can further improve stiffness. Reduction in stiffness can release swelling and can increase the movement.
What does this mean?
This means that electroacupuncture can increase local microcirculation; this can decrease the swelling and hence enhance the movement.
4. It benefits in rheumatoid arthritis
A pilot study was done on the rheumatoid arthritis patients to assess the efficacy of different types of acupuncture: electroacupuncture, traditional Chinese acupuncture, and sham acupuncture.
The exposure of acupuncture for 20 sessions for 10 weeks observed that traditional Chinese and electroacupuncture group showed a significant reduction in pain score.
Another study described that use of electroacupuncture and autogenic training in treating rheumatoid arthritis shows significant short term and long term treatment effects but the treatment effect obtained from electro- acupuncture is more pronounced.
What does this means?
Significant evidence points towards the fact that electroacupuncture is efficient in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
5. It benefits in osteoarthritis
A study was performed to determine the immediate effect of electroacupuncture and manual acupuncture on knee pain, muscle movement, and mobility. It was concluded from the study that both types of acupuncture were equally effective in terms of pain, muscle movement and mobility.
Another study revealed that patients with knee osteoarthritis having lower stages benefit more from electroacupuncture than higher stages of the osteoarthritis.
What does this mean?
This means that electroacupuncture therapy is effective in decreasing the pain, and improving the joint movement in arthritis. The therapy is more efficient at lower or early stage.
6. Electroacupuncture helps in weight loss and obesity
It has been found that obesity adds to the risk for arthritis. Obesity or over weight person adds extra weight to his legs, hips, and knees. Secondly, fat generates chemicals which can cause inflammation. Hence, it is important to control this factor.
Electroacupuncture has been able to reduce weight in obese people. Acupuncture is being used to reduce excess fat in the body.
It has also been found that the neurotransmitters released, suppresses the appetite by serotonin. This leads to decrease in food consume and hence reduces obesity.
What does this mean?
Electroacupuncture can reduce obesity by emitting neurotransmitters. Obesity is considered to be a risk factor of arthritis. This means that electro acupuncture can prevent the arthritis by eliminating the risk of obesity.
Is electroacupuncture effective in arthritis treatment?
With so many successful studies and evidence, acupuncture is effective in reducing pain and inflammation and also prevents risk factors from causing arthritis.
The studies also confirm that the acupuncture doesn’t show any change in swollen joints, pain, analgesic effect whereas the electroacupuncture can reduce the pain, the number of swollen and tender joints.
The scientific pathway taken by electroacupuncture is still a question.
Precautions with Electroacupuncture
A few precautions need to be noted before taking electroacupuncture treatment for arthritis
- It needs to be performed by a qualified person.
- Disposable needles need to be used. Once the needles are used, it shouldn’t be reused.
- It doesn’t work right away, it needs time, and so be patience.
- Mild changes in the regions where to administer the electroacupuncture may vary and may lead to problems.
Electroacupuncture, as well as traditional acupuncture, are found to be effective in decreasing pain and stiffness. The Chinese technique can also protect the person from risk factors of arthritis like obesity.
It can control obesity so that extra load on joints can be avoided. It also decreases the stiffness and helps in regaining movement. Since, the actual mechanism of acupuncture is unknown, more researches need to be done to disclose the secret.