Relieving Joint Stiffness with Acupuncture: Natural Relief for Osteoarthritis in Seniors 

 March 17, 2024

By  Steve Hoffman

Aging brings many gifts: wisdom, experience, and maturity. But it also carries various drawbacks, not the least of which is the nearly inescapable specter of osteoarthritis, which almost 85% of people over 65 will experience. About 25% of adults experience arthritis or arthritic changes, sometimes as early as the late teen years, depending on the level and type of activity they engage in.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a systemic skeletal disorder characterized by decreasing bone mass and deterioration of bone tissues. Left untreated, osteoarthritis can lead to pain, limited range of motion, swelling or stiffness, and frequent or complex fractures. Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent degenerative disease, most commonly affecting the spine, finger, ankle, and knee joints. Some types of osteoarthritis are inherited; others are brought on or worsened by repetitive motions leading to joint degradation. Prevention and treatment are the keys to preventing the most serious of these issues for seniors. Both of these keys can be turned with one singular lock: Acupuncture.

The Early Stages of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis as a disease functions by wearing down the lining and reducing the fluid that cushions or smooths joint motions. In the early stages, it can manifest as stiffness or soreness of the joints. Range of motion may decrease, and inflammation may become more significant, bringing pain. As the condition progresses, however, the discomfort can increase substantially, limiting the activities a person may engage in.

In the earlier stages, increased activity, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications are often effective, though neither slows or prevents the disease from progressing. There is no cure for osteoarthritis. However, treatment to slow the disease's progression or ease the symptoms is available. Western medicine usually approaches advanced osteoarthritis in two ways: by relieving pain through medications or surgically repairing/replacing damaged joints.

Why Not Medication? 

The medications often carry their own side effects, as do anti-inflammatory medications, which are particularly hard on the digestive system. For patients who may have trouble with ulcers or bleeding, anti-inflammatory medications may not be suitable. More powerful pain medications can cause drowsiness and breathing issues and carry a risk of habituation. Habituation means a patient may need more and more of the same medication over time to produce the same effect.

What can Acupuncture do to help?

Acupuncture employs the strategic deployment of tiny, fine needles to relieve pain/inflammation and encourage healing. By stimulating specific nerves, signals are sent

through the nervous system to the spine and brain. Treatment usually lasts between a few minutes and an hour, and results may be immediate or develop over days to a week.

Reduce Inflammation

When you are injured, especially chronically, such as with osteoarthritis, your body produces inflammation, and the area goes into a tense state to protect itself from further damage. This contracture inhibits circulation, which is necessary for healing to occur. When the acupuncture needle is applied to the area corresponding to the disease or discomfort, it begins to break the contracture and pain cycle. Acupuncture also activates the body’s immune system, aiding healing. Because acupuncture relies on the body’s self-healing abilities, treatment can be safely used with other therapies.

Beyond the specific modalities of how acupuncture works lies another benefit: endorphins. With the application of each tiny needle, the body is stimulated to release endorphins, pain-relieving natural chemicals, and other mood-stimulating neurotransmitters. Acupuncture also encourages the brain to release a chemical called cortisol: this can be associated with reducing inflammation in the body.

Progress Regardless of Progression

Another benefit of treating osteoarthritis with acupuncture is that the same treatment is effective no matter how progressed the disease is. Whether you are merely noticing some stiffness in the morning or dealing with new or worsening pain, acupuncture from a trained professional can reduce these symptoms. Once the stiffness and discomfort are resolved, you can engage in more of the activities you enjoy. Being more active, in turn, can reduce further inflammation and help to retain strength and range of motion.

Instead of turning to risky drugs or invasive surgeries, acupuncture offers a safe, effective avenue to treat osteoarthritis. The efficacy of acupuncture in treating arthritis has been demonstrated in scientific studies, but many people still aren’t aware of this first-line treatment option.

Experience Relief With Natural Solutions

Some people are so fearful of injury as they age that they decide to abstain from everything they enjoy, giving up all the hobbies and recreations that used to occupy them. Or perhaps they think that the slowly increasing pain they experience as time passes is simply part of normal aging. Maybe, in the past, this was true. But fear need not be in control! With the help of treatment from a qualified professional acupuncturist, adults and seniors with osteoarthritis can continue to be active and vital well into their senior years!

Princeton Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Our patients know just how effective treatments are for these and a host of other problems. Steven Hoffman, a New Jersey Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Oriental Medicine, will provide you with a thorough intake and evaluation and a clear, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that will insure that your goals are met or exceeded. Do you want to move past these or other problems? We will help you thrive not just survive!

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