Acupuncture for Arthritis

Comprehensive Acupuncture Treatments for Arthritis: How It Works and What to Expect


Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to reduce joint pain, swelling, and stiffness which comes from arthritis. Acupuncture not only treats symptoms, like taking a painkiller, but also works to naturally reduce inflammation in the body.

In my 17 years of practice I have helped hundreds of patients with arthritis. I used a combination of therapies which are customized to each patient including acupuncture, electroacupuncture, and cupping.

The cumulative effect of acupuncture is important. Not only is there an pain relief from one acupuncture treatment but also through a treatment course my patients see a long term reduction in pain and the greater ability to function. 


How does acupuncture work to treat arthritis?

Acupuncture works to relieve pain and stiffness of arthritis in many ways. First, acupuncture stimulates the release of natural pain relievers in the brain called opioids.(1)

Additionally, acupuncture acts as a mind body technique which changes the way the nervous system feels pain.(2)

Importantly, acupuncture’s many mechanisms lead to long term relief from pain, even after the treatment course has finished.(3)

In addition to relieving pain, acupuncture has an anti-inflammatory effect reducing inflammation in the muscles and joints. Recent research have shown acupuncture to be an effective treatment for arthritis. (4)  

Electro-acupuncture relieves arthritis pain

Electro-acupuncture is used to enhance the pain relieving and anti-inflammatory aspects of acupuncture. Electro-acupuncture is very similar to traditional acupuncture but provides an additional small amount of electrical stimulation to the acupuncture needles. The electrical stimulation enhances muscle relaxation and the release of natural pain killers in the body, as well as aids in the decreasing inflammation.

Electro-acupuncture is very frequently used for arthritis, as well as other chronic pain and inflammatory conditions. Pain relief with electro-acupuncture can be so dramatic it has been used for certain types of surgery in China.(5) 

Acupuncture Understanding of Arthritis

Chinese medicine views health as a state of balance in the body. When the body is imbalanced there is pain and discomfort. Arthritis can be caused by imbalances such as too little Qi, the bodies energy. This leads to weak and painful joints.

Many traditions understand that arthritis symptoms often worsen in cold and damp weather. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have made the connection to this seasonal phenomena for thousands of years. According to acupuncture, cold and damp can become stuck in the joints, disrupting the normal function and circulation in the joints, which leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work to warm the body and increase circulation, leading to a relief from pain. Warming the acupuncture points and acupuncture channels helps to dislodge the cold and dampness. While the acupuncture session may be focused on the painful area, the purpose of each treatment is to address the whole body. 

What is the Acupuncture treatment for arthritis like?

During the first visit, we will complete a medical history and physical examination, which focuses on an examination of the painful and stiff joints. Acupuncture diagnosis and treatment focuses on identifying the specific root imbalance causing the condition, and then a treatment course plan is made for you.

The acupuncture session lasts 30 minutes. If using electro-acupuncture, the optimal time for treatment is 20 minutes. Afterwards, the acupuncture needles will be readjusted to stimulate them and continue with 10 minutes more of regular acupuncture. This helps to get the maximum pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects of both types of acupuncture.

The goal of the treatment course is to decrease pain and inflammation, and improve mobility in the joints. Many people find rapid relief, within a few weeks of beginning the treatment.

Generally, patients come in for acupuncture once or twice a week, depending on the severity of their symptoms, and gradually decrease treatments. The treatment course generally lasts 2-4 months. Often, patients will experience long lasting pain relief. 

  1. Zhang R, Lao L, Ren K, Berman BM. Mechanisms of acupuncture-electroacupuncture on persistent pain. Anesthesiology. 2014;120(2):482-503.
  2. Otti A, Noll-Hussong M. Acupuncture-induced pain relief and the human brain’s default mode network – an extended view of central effects of acupuncture analgesia. Forsch Komplementmed. 2012;19(4):197-201.
  3. Thomas KJ, MacPherson H, Ratcliffe J, et al. Longer term clinical and economic benefits of offering acupuncture care to patients with chronic low back pain. Health Technol Assess. 2005;9(32):iii-iv, ix-x, 1-109.
  4. Berman BM, Lao L, Langenberg P, Lee WL, Gilpin AM, Hochberg MC. Effectiveness of acupuncture as adjunctive therapy in osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2004;141(12):901-910.
  5. Zhou J, Chi H, Cheng TO, et al. Acupuncture anesthesia for open heart surgery in contemporary China. Int J Cardiol. 2011;150(1):12-16.

Feedback From our clients…

I would recommend Dr. Alban to my friends and colleagues without reservation! He has extensive training and experience in the U.S. and in China so I have faith in his medical skill and knowledge. His technique is extremely gentle while his manner is caring, quietly confident and reassuring. Specifically, he has lowered my pulse from the 90’s to the 70’s in just one or two treatments. Tight muscles and arthritis are relieved immediately. My diabetes is improved and well controlled and I have a sense of well being. Thank you Dr. Alban.

~ G.G., Queens, New York