Osteoarthritis is extraordinarily common in this day and age in the Western world. The reasons for this include lifestyle, such as an inordinate amount of sitting or repetitive actions.
We commonly see “tradies” – carpenters, builders, plasterers, tilers – suffering from osteoarthritis. These are common trades where this condition becomes prevalent as the tradespeople move into their 15th or 20th year in their trade. The condition is also quite prevalent with women because of their vulnerability resulting from bearing children and the menstrual cycle.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the bones which results in calcification – like build-up of sediment. It’s like a protective layer that the body creates at the bone ends to prevent wearing of the bones. It produces an irritation or a grinding, for example, in the hip joint. This, in turn, causes a real wearing and tearing as the bursar or fluid sac (the body’s shock absorbers of the joints) start to deteriorate with age and use.
The bone ends start to become worn and the body creates calcification and then we get a situation where the bones are grinding on each other, leading to the development of osteoarthritis which is an arthritic condition of the bone ends.
This degenerative joint disease is very prevalent in the hips, the lower back, the knees and, to some degree, in the ankles (although this condition in the ankles is not commonly seen in our acupuncture clinic). In fact, the degenerative disease can exist in all joints of the body – the fingers, wrist joints, elbows, cervical vertebrae in the neck and the thoracic vertebrae in the upper back.
The more common conditions seen in my clinic relate to the lower back (lumbar vertebrae), the sacroiliac joints, the hip and the knees. A huge amount of my work in the clinic is with people suffering from the pain and discomfort of this degenerative joint disease.
At the moment, I’m working with between seven and ten patients with lower back conditions that have an element of osteoarthritis about them. I’m also working with a recreational climber who has a significant amount of this condition in her knees as a result of climbing for 30 years – the degenerative condition being caused by the knocking and grinding of the knee joints while climbing.
Obviously, there is some degeneration with retired professional athletes. In these people, there is also a tendency to build up the osteoarthritic condition
Acupuncture treatment for osteoarthritis
Traditional acupuncture, combined with moxibustion (a heating substance we use to warm the affected area), brings about an extraordinary amount of relief for people suffering from the very painful and inconvenient condition of osteoarthritis.
Over the course of several acupuncture treatments, we can often bring people back to a much more liveable state. Acupuncture doesn’t necessarily cure osteoarthritis. To my knowledge there are not a lot of modalities that would lay claim to curing this condition.
However, we can help to slow down the degeneration and help resolve a lot of pain and discomfort. Hence acupuncture can give back to our patients some degree of pleasure and pain-free lifestyle that has been taken away from them through osteoarthritis.