Approximately 350 million people worldwide have some form of arthritis, a group of conditions that typically cause pain and swelling in joints. While many claims have been made about the effectiveness of alternative arthritis treatments for relieving joint tenderness, two in particular appear to show promise.
Acupuncture has been used in some parts of the world to relieve joint pain for more than 5,000 years. It is a treatment in which ultra-thin needles are inserted into specific points of the body, triggering energy flow (or qi) to promote healing. While many people worry about the treatment's potential for discomfort, insertion by skilled practitioners usually proves painless.
Sometimes, practitioners use a technique called moxibustion, in which the tip of the inserted needle is wrapped in an herbal mixture called moxa. Made from mugwort, a small spongy herb, the moxa is ignited to generate heat to the acupuncture point and speed healing in the body.
Research on acupuncture for pain and joint tenderness has shown good results, making it one of the most promising alternative arthritis treatments.
- Research published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine looked at 204 patients with chronic pain. Following treatment with acupuncture, 74 percent of the patients experienced significant relief for more than three months.
- A study from China showed that 20 sessions of traditional acupuncture or electro-acupuncture (sending pulsating electrical currents through the needles) reduced joint tenderness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
- A German study examining 304,674 people with osteoarthritis of the knee showed that those who received 15 sessions of acupuncture in combination with standard care experienced less pain and stiffness than people receiving standard care alone. Results lasted for three months after the acupuncture treatment.
Many people take advantage of massage to relieve anxiety and soothe sore muscles, but according to research, it also makes for one of the better alternative arthritis treatments for relieving pain.
A study in 2006 examined 68 adults with osteoarthritis of the knee. Researchers found that people who received two sessions of Swedish massage for eight weeks reported less pain and stiffness and better range of motion than people who did not partake in massage. Another study in 2006 examined 22 adults with arthritis of the hand or wrist. Participants received four weekly therapeutic massages and were educated how to self-massage tender joints at home. All experienced reduced pain and anxiety and better grip strength as evidenced by pre-therapy and post-therapy testing.
With a pill for nearly every medical condition, often accompanied by unwanted side effects, many people are turning to alternative methods of treatment. Offering promising results in scientific studies, acupuncture and massage give people with arthritis an alternative to NSAID pain relievers or stronger oral medicine for the relief of joint tenderness.