In the United States, the National Psoriasis Foundation recommends acupuncture for psoriatic arthritis. Research has shown that acupuncture can help rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that occurs in a percentage of the people who have had a history of psoriasis. When severe, sausage like swellings can appear in the fingers and toes along with degenerative changes to the nails. NSAIDS are commonly prescribed but they often cause complications.
Side effects from NSAIDS often cause gastro intestinal bleeding and can damage the kidneys and heart.
There are no unwanted side effects when treating psoriatic arthritis with acupuncture. Instead of the acupuncturist using needles to just stop pain as in western medicine, the traditional Chinese medicine treatment is aimed at restoring balance and treating the root cause.
There are any number of imbalances that can cause psoriatic arthritis but the complication of “wind and damp heat” is the most common pattern contributing to the distressing pain and swelling symptoms. Chinese medicine theory views that when the body becomes weak, for example from chronic illness, long term irregular eating habits or having a weak constitutional disposition; then the outside of the body is vulnerable to become saturated with environmental weather factors. This can mean wind or the humidity in a damp and hot environment or exposure to a the harsh dry cold environment. Literally, the wind and damp humidity penetrate into the body and lodge in the joints. This is why arthritis can flare up and aggravate in changes of weather. How many times have you heard of someone say how they know it’s going to rain because their knee is starting to swell and ache?
There are references to acupuncture points being used to treat the symptoms of arthritis, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis going back centuries. Some of these points have functions allocated to them such as “disperse wind from joints” or treat “crane knee” which is like a knotted knee as seen in the bird.
Rebecca Fettig, a licenced acupuncture physician in the States, specialises in auto immune diseases and says that it can take up to 2 months with acupuncture being performed twice a week to get on top of the pain and remove the need for pain killers. It can take up to 6 months of acupuncture treatment in combination with Chinese herbs to start to see long lasting changes in the skin.
Mark Crain, a well known acupuncturist and practicing Chinese herbalist in Brisbane says “In chronic cases of psoriatic arthritis, a combination of acupuncture and herbs works best. The acupuncture can address the pain issues and the Chinese herbs to resolve the toxins lodged in the joints“.