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Acupuncture for rheumatoid arthritis

On this page

  1. Overview
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Treatment

1. Overview

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a medical condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is seen in the elderly who have joint destruction.

2. Symptoms

Symptoms of rharmatoid arthritis include pain, swelling of the joint, deformity of the joint, difficultly in walking or holding items.

3. Causes

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by aging, as we grow old we become more deficient in energy, blood and Yin. Damp weather increases it as damp obstructs eneregy and blood flow to the joint causing it to deteriorate. It can also be caused by an autoimmune disorder.

4. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Acupuncture (oriental medicine) treatment uses fine needles and electro acupuncture to stimulate acupuncture points thereby relieving chronic pain and boosting the immune system. The effects of acupuncture may help to relieve pain and improve function in patients with rheumatoid arthritis by:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Inducing vasoactive intestinal peptide expression, an anti-inflammatory neuro-peptide
  • Inhibiting the function of synovial mast cells (which are substantially involved in the initiation of inflammatory arthritis)
  • Upregulating plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone, downregulating serum cortisol levels and synovial nuclear factor-kappa B p 65 immunoactivity, and restoring the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA)
  • Stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord
  • Increasing local microcirculation, which aids dispersal of swelling

In most circumstances, Chinese herbs are a more effective treatment to help with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and can improve quality of life. Taking supplements such as iron and glucosamine can improve symptoms.


Lv, Z, et al. Effects of intensity of electroacupuncture on chronic pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Res Ther. 2019 May 14;21(1):120. doi: 10.1186/s13075-019-1899-6.
Lee, H., Lee, J., Kim, Y. et al. Acupuncture for symptom management of rheumatoid arthritis: a pilot study. Clin Rheumatol 27, 641-645 (2008) doi: 10.1007/s10067-007-0819-3.