Acupuncture for rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a medical condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. Often rheumatoid arthritis is seen in the elderly who have joint destruction. In other cases it can be caused by an autoimmune disease. In traditional Chinese medicine this is because as we grow old we become more deficient in energy, blood and Yin. Treatment for 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. Factsheet Download my rheumatoid arthritis factsheet. References 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.