Chronically painful conditions of the locomotor system accompanied by restricted movements of the joints are often treated with acupuncture if surgical intervention is not necessary. Acupuncture not only alleviates pain, it also reduces muscle spasm, thereby increasing mobility. Joint damage often results from muscle malfunction, and many patients complain of arthralgia before any changes are demonstrable by X-ray. In these cases, acupuncture may bring about a permanent cure. Controlled studies on common diseases and conditions in this category have been reported by different authors, with favourable results for acupuncture treatments compared with standard therapy, delayed-treatment controls, control needling, mock TENS, or other sham acupuncture techniques. The conditions concerned include cervical spondylitis or neck pain due to other causes (33-37), periarthritis of the shoulder (38, 39) fibromyalgia (40), fasciitis (41), epicondylitis (tennis elbow) (42-44), low back pain (45-49), sciatica (50-53), osteoarthritis with knee pain (54-56), and radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndromes (57). In some reports, comparison was made between standard care and acupuncture as an adjunct to standard care. The conclusion from one such randomized controlled trial was that acupuncture is an effective and judicious adjunct to conventional care for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee (58).
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease with extra-articular manifestations in most patients. In this disease, dysfunction of the immune system plays a major role, which explains the extra-articular and articular features. Acupuncture is beneficial in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (4-6). While acupuncture may not improve the damage that has been done to the joints, successful pain relief has been verified in the majority of controlled studies (58). The action of acupuncture on inflammation and the dysfunctional immune system is also beneficial (5, 59).