Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic condition involving inflammation and arthritis of the spine. It more commonly affects the lower spine, pelvis and sacro-iliac joints. This slow progressing debilitating disease can eventually cause fusion of the bones. It affects more males than females and there is a strong genetic component as the condition is known to be hereditary.
The common medications prescribed for this condition are Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs such as Ibuprofen, diclofenec and naproxen. Unfortunately they have side effects including skin rashes, eczema, cardio vascular problems, and stomach and kidney problems. Taking the medications does not actually slow the progression of the disease or prevent fusion of the bones. Other medications in the past that were used to mask the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis have since been banned because they did more harm than good.
The most common symptoms include pain and decreased range of movement as well as tiredness. The symptoms often get worse on cloudy and rainy days as well during sudden changes to colder weather.
Researchers Drs. Hou and Liu already in 2004 demonstrated that specific acupuncture techniques such as warm needle method provide a better outcome than plain acupuncture needling.
The tradition Chinese medical diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis is called painful bone impediment.
It is seen to be due to outside environment factors including cold and wind seeping through the skin and lodging in the bones. When modern medicine establishes that hereditary factors play a role, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners view that other meridians such as the penetrating vessel as they contain the constitutional and inherited strength of the individual should be used.
In simple visual terms, ankylosing spondylitis is seen as cold stuck in the bones; the treatment involves the insertion of acupuncture needles into localised painful areas at specific acupuncture points and then burning mugwort on the needles. This is known as warm needle moxibustion method. The research confirmed that the application of acupuncture and moxibustion had better results than just acupuncture alone.
It is important to note that other acupuncture points on the arms and legs are also used. These are known as distal points, which are acupuncture points that are away from the problem. For example, acupuncture points in the wrist joints are known to relieve stiff joints in the whole body and not just the wrist.
The research on acupuncture for ankylosing spondylitis confirmed decrease in pain, increased range of movement on the spine, ESR levels were reduced by half, C-reactive protein reduced to 25% and even the HLA-B27 marker had been reduced.